Element Energy

Element Energy study recommends urgent action to drive decarbonisation of London’s energy system

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Meeting the targets committed to in the Paris Agreement will require deep decarbonisation of all sectors of energy use to limit the increase in global average temperature to well below two degrees above pre-industrial levels. Cities such as London have a pivotal role to play in achieving these objectives and must develop robust climate action plans.

Element Energy was commissioned by C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and the Greater London Authority (GLA) to undertake an analysis of decarbonisation scenarios to inform London’s strategy on energy and climate. The study employs detailed modelling of London’s buildings, vehicles and energy supply to provide insight into the technology options available for low-carbon heating and transport. It aims to give a clear analysis of the infrastructure required to support the four potential scenarios (summarised in Figures 1-3 below) to reduce London’s emissions, including the electricity and gas grid, heat networks, electric vehicle recharging and building-level infrastructure. The analysis includes the carbon and cost implications for each scenario, as well as highlighting the challenges and uncertainties associated with them. The results have informed London’s five-year carbon budgets and will support energy policy decisions, highlighting key decision milestones.

There are several policy actions that could be taken immediately, either locally or nationally, to support technologies at the minimum levels present in all scenarios and to enable a decision on the preferred scenario in the late 2020s. These low regrets actions entail significant activity from 2020, meaning that decisions by local and national government on the form of the supporting policy need to be made in 2018-19.

Low regrets actions

  • Energy efficiency bringing 70% of London’s buildings to EPC C or above by 2030
  • Rollout of heat networks to an additional 70,000 homes by 2025
  • Deployment of heat pumps in more than 300,000 buildings by 2025
  • New-build regulations mandating high efficiency and low carbon heating
  • Coordination of EV charging infrastructure deployment

Key decision points

Beyond the low regrets actions, planning needs to start now in order to ensure that decisions on the longer term decarbonisation scenario can be made by the mid-2020s, when the various scenarios considered diverge more clearly. Each scenario focuses the greatest policy effort in a single area (district heating, heat pumps, or full hydrogen grid conversion) to reflect approximately equivalent levels of policy ambition. Figure 4 below presents a timeline of the actions and decisions proposed.

The Executive Summary and the full report and findings can be found at the following web link:


For more information on this study and our work on decarbonisation pathways, please contact Sam Foster.


Figure 1: Scenario narratives and principles

Figure 2: Heat demand met by each technology in 2050 in the scenarios

Figure 3: Transport energy demand met by each technology in 2050 in the scenarios

Figure 4: Low regrets actions and key decision points to decarbonise London’s energy system


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