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Where will our energy come from?


There are some big issues we have to overcome to make our energy infrastructure sustainable for the future.

How do we decarbonise heat in our homes without increasing costs and fuel poverty? How do we cut carbon in the energy used in heavy industry without making manufacturing uncompetitive? And how do we persuade everyone they have a responsibility to consider their own carbon footprint?

22 per cent of UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from heating
22% of UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from heating.
UN Global Goal 7 is for affordable and clean energy
UN Global Goal 7 is for affordable and clean energy.
Half of the UK’s power comes from low-carbon technologies
Half of the UK’s power comes from low-carbon technologies.

Source: National Infrastructure Assessment, National Infrastructure Commission & Supergen. 

Engineering a net zero world

Decarbonising energy is challenging but we are making progress.

The electricity sector has reduced its carbon emissions by more than half since 1990 as we switch from coal to wind and other renewables. The sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles will be banned from 2030 and the adoption of electric vehicles increases year on year. Much of our rail network is already electrified and long-distance trains could soon operate on battery power on some routes.

Civil engineers are involved at every stage, from designing and building a nuclear power station or an offshore wind farm, to creating the charging infrastructure for the electric car revolution or keeping our electric rail network on track.

And they will be at the forefront of helping us access new green energy sources, like hydrogen, which could soon power cars, buses, lorries, trains and even planes.

Ask an engineer

“My passion and motivation as an engineer is to contribute to a global shift away from fossil fuels.

But instead of one giant leap, I see the transition to green energy happening through a series of more achievable steps, involving smaller, local projects that are less complex and consider the socio-economic challenges of the area. This transition will need to be supported by ongoing research and innovation, policy and regulatory changes, and investment.

Most importantly, the transition needs to happen in a fair and just way, and the success of local projects will make the case for replication and larger decarbonised energy clusters to be formed on the pathway to net zero. ”

Rosheena Jugdhurry

Project case study

Stronelairg and Melgarve substations

Connecting the Stronelairg wind farm to the electricity grid was a major engineering challenge in a remote location in the Scottish Highlands.

Two major substations have enabled 228MW of green energy to flow into the network, enough to power 188,000 homes and save 300,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.