UCL Energy Institute


Greater policy ambition could see UK energy free from volatile fossil fuel markets well before 2050

7 June 2023

UK energy could be almost entirely fossil fuel free by 2045, limiting the country’s exposure to volatile global markets that have seen prices surge since the war in Ukraine and boosting energy security according to a new report by UCL Energy Institute researchers.

Wind turbines at Rampion Offshore Wind Farm, UK

With the British Energy Security Strategy and Energy Security Bill the UK government has made its commitment to make the country more energy independent clear. However, oil and natural gas markets are global or regional in scope which means that the price of these fuels, even those produced from the North Sea, are subject to factors beyond the UK’s control. Therefore, rapidly phasing out their consumption is critical to ensuring affordable and reliable energy. 

The researchers looked at potential policy levers that could be pulled to drive a reduction in oil and gas demand across the economy and fed these into the UK TIMES energy system model to produce pathways of the demand for these fuels to 2050. They found that a full implementation of these levers, enabled by energy policy, could see oil demand, which is mainly driven by transport, phased out by 2040 with no net imports of the fuel from as early as 2030. For natural gas, which is mostly used to heat our buildings, to generate power and in industry, demand could be cut to essentially zero by 2045 with no imports from 2040.

The report, which was supported by Uplift, also stressed that the phase out of fossil fuels addresses a number of other challenges facing the UK today including responding to climate change and job creation. This means the common narrative that energy security, affordability and sustainability must be traded off against one another can be reversed because these factors are synergistic in the context of a transition away from fossil fuels.

Read the report