The Azimuth Project
Zero carbon Britain 2030 (Rev #11)


Zero carbon Britain 2030, produced by the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, is an ambitious plan to reduce Britain’s carbon emissions:

The goal is to reduce Britain’s carbon emissions to zero in 20 years with no new nuclear power. It involves dramatic reductions (over 50%) in energy use (called PowerDown) and massive use of renewables, especially offshore wind (PowerUp).


The Centre for Alternative Technology has produced three reports, in 2007, 2010, and 2013. The figures here come mainly from the third one. The differences between them are not large.


Efficiency improvements and technology changes such as insulation and electrification of transport would provide some of the reduction in carbon emissions.

There would also need to be major behavioural changes. These include: 20% less travel overall; more public transport; aviation reduced to one third of current levels, with very few internal flights. Also, less meat consumed, with cow and sheep stocks in particular much reduced. One chapter of the report is devoted to methods for changing people’s behaviour.

In total these changes would reduce energy use to about 45% of 2010 levels.

Land use

4.1 Mha of land would be converted to growing energy crops, most of which is currently used to graze livestock.

After appropriate management changes, the land would remove carbon dioxide from the air and sequester it in soil or vegetation. This would accumulate carbon for 20-30 years, after which the soil and vegetation would be saturated and new technologies would be required.


There is no carbon capture, and no new nuclear in this plan. Nearly all energy generation would be electricity, with some biofuels for transport, especially aviation. Electricity generation would be dominated by offshore wind as shown by the table:

Renewable electricity

Offshore wind530140 GW maximum power, 14,000 turbines rated 10 MW
Onshore wind5120 GW maximum power, 10,000 turbines rated 2 MW
Wave power2510 GW maximum power
Tidal (range and stream)4220 GW maximum power
Solar PV5875 GW maximum power, covering 10-15% of UK roof area
Geothermal electricity243 GW maximum power
Hydropower83 GW maximum power

Total electricity 738

Renewable heat Energy

Solar thermal25Covering around 3% of UK roof area
Geothermal heat15
Ambient heat105Extracted from air, ground and water by heat pumps

Total heat 145 TWh/y

Biomass Energy

For biogas and carbon neutral synthetic gas94From waste (37 TWh) and grasses for anaerobic digestion (AD) (57 TWh)
For carbon neutral synthetic fuel143From Miscanthus and Short Rotation Coppice (SRC)
For heat37From Short Rotation Coppice (SRC)and Short Rotation Forestry (SRF)

Total biomass 274 TWh/y


Dealing with variability in supply and demand

27 TWh a year of carbon-neutral gas is produced and used as backup, producing about 14 TWh/y of electricity. Gas turbines with about 400 TWh/y maximum capacity are needed for this. The Hourly Energy Model Methodology is used for assessing this plan.


How does the amount of offshore wind compare with the estimates in Without the hot air?

A calculation: 530TWh/y = 530×10 9 530 \times 10^9 kWh/y. Assuming a population of 60 million, this corresponds to

530×10 9365×6×10 7=24kWh/day \frac{530 \times 10^9}{365 \times 6 \times 10^7} = 24 kWh/day

per person. This can be compared to MacKay’s estimates of 16 kWh/day for shallow offshore wind plus 32 kWh/day for deep offshore wind.


  • FESA from Orion Innovations is proprietary software which models energy systems scenarios, including meteorological data, economic analysis and technology performance.

category: action, energy