While global innovations will make a real difference to climate change on a worldwide scale, there is plenty that UK-based individuals and businesses can do, and the Energy Institute is facing the challenge
Addressing a large audience of energy professionals earlier this year, Malcolm Wicks MP, Energy Minister, called for an energy revolution to take place. Speaking at the Energy Institute?s (EI) inaugural Energy in Transition conference in London, Mr Wicks urged everyone to participate in working towards developing a low-carbon economy.
The EI?s annual three-day Energy in Transition event was established to provide a forum for leaders in energy thinking and technologies. It embraced three main themes: reducing demand, increasing efficiency; sustainable energy supply; and climate change and security of supply. The event concluded with the EI Summer Lunch, where Phil Woolas MP, Environment Minister, described the scale of challenge in stimulating design and innovation and incentivising low carbon growth. He echoed the sentiments highlighted throughout the conference that the efforts needed to transform to a lowcarbon economy are very real, emphasising that everyone must be part of the solution.
With increasing media and public interest in climate change, it is quite clear we are looking at the most significant period in the energy industry for some time. Many concur that there are technological and behavioural solutions available today to respond to the energy challenge but urgent action is required to make these a reality and there will be some difficult decisions to make on the way.
Global demand for energy is rising fast, particularly with development in China and India and with the topic debated at G8; this issue is felt in all major economies. Days of cheap energy are gone. Energy supplies must be diversified and decarbonised. The debate of climate change is now over. The generation gap is imminent, real and offers significant challenges. The scale of the problem means global solutions will make a real difference.
Leading economies are keen to see economic growth coupled with reducing CO² emissions and many believe this can be achieved through a portfolio of solutions that include wider applications of nuclear, renewables and carbon capture and storage (CCS).
With reports that China is commissioning on average one new power plant a week, many currently see CCS as critical to squaring this circle of burning fossil fuels. With the potential to capture 90% of emissions on 300-400MW capacity plants, it seems sensible that all new plants are built capture-ready to be retrofit at a later stage. With a working CCS demonstration in the UK planned to be in place by 2014, potential commercial deployment is anticipated by 2020.
Energy efficiency is most important in terms of what can actually and realistically be achieved now. The UK is considering mandating the use of smart meters for businesses. With more information customers can better manage their consumption and, coupled with energy efficiency measures, this would raise the energy performance of buildings. However, this smart technology will only offer mildly incremental savings if the consumer does not regularly review the data and take positive action on changing their behaviour.
All new homes built now are to be zero carbon by 2016; all new non-domestic buildings are to be zero carbon by 2019. From October 2008, all building types will have to apply for public display certificates which will then be extended to large commercial buildings at a later date. These certificates will make green wash more difficult, providing more transparency to the energy performance of buildings and real value in identifying areas in which energy efficiency measures can be implemented and exploited.
However, as there is no national strategy on existing housing stock currently in place, an enormous effort is still needed in making existing buildings energy efficient. A good place to start is to measure your company?s carbon footprint, engage your staff team to support energy efficiency initiatives, and identify areas that can be upgraded, improved and maintained to operate more efficiently.
Energy efficiency measures have potential to save more energy, more cost-effectively than new innovation in technologies. Analysis suggests that programmes to reduce emissions from households and businesses are as a whole the more cost-effective because they directly result in financial savings on fuel bills and carbon saved. Look for synergistic solutions that address and resolve multiple problems and issues simultaneously and exploit the opportunities offered by nature to ventilate, heat, cool and illuminate your buildings.
With energy demand for transport projected to more than double by 2050, ongoing work is taking place to reduce the average CO2 emitted by new cars along with further research into hydrogen/fuel cells, advanced biofuels combined with hybrids and electric vehicles. With regards to biofuels, there are very many different fuels and mixes available. It is important to note that deforestation is a very real and significant issue in the development of biofuels and there is a recommended reduction in growth rate until more controls are in place.
All of these technologies have a role to play, however vehicle technology is only part of the solution ? demand management and building public transport infrastructure to encourage behavioural changes will be key. Consumer interest is currently tipping in favour of low-carbon cars driven by high fuel prices. However, over 50% fuel economy savings are possible using existing technology, that is through checking the most efficient air pressure in your tyres, incorporating light-weight components and regular servicing to keep your engine well-tune. Business and industry also have a role to play in promoting home-working, more efficient company transport policies, and tele-conferencing.
A low-carbon economy must meet environmental and economic aims ? many of the solutions and policy measures are in place but active deployment is still not widespread as it needs to be. We need a revolution that as citizens we can all participate in. Unfortunately there is no silver bullet to the energy challenges we face. We will need all possible solutions and many strongly believe we have the technology to drive to a different future.
The problem lies in turning rhetoric into action. Government and industry focus on the long term and are doing all the right things but it will take the hearts and minds of all of us to make a difference that matters. It will not be easy but efforts to transform to a low-carbon economy are very real and the good news is that everyone can be part of the solution.
For more information, visit: Website: www.energyinst.org
Garry Charnock was inspired by a Defra presentation to encourage his village, Ashton Hayes, Cheshire, to contribute towards combating climate change and becoming the first carbon neutral village. The parish council supported his initiative and before long the rest of the community was involved. Their aim is to share their experiences and inspire others. They do not know when they will become carbon, but are concentrating on the journey. The community does not focus on the threats of climate change, more on the benefits of taking action. Overall in 2008, the village has reduced its carbon emissions by 22% across all components especially flights where members of the community are actively changing their behaviour.
Added the 10 September 2008 in category Innovation UK Vol4-1