How to plug the energy gap
Today sees the publication of an authoritative, multidisciplinary report which aims to provide the UK Government with a coherent, feasible solution to the acknowledged problem of the UKs looming Energy Gap. The report, written by John Loughhead, (Executive Director, UK Energy Research Centre) is the result of a multidisciplinary consensus meeting between 150 scientific, technical, economic and sociological experts at Burlington House on October 12 and 13, under the auspices of The Geological Society of London [Note 1,5]. The meeting was co-sponsored by five sister societies and institutes and four research councils [Note 2].
The Report distils the conclusions of the meeting and is independent of all its sponsoring bodies.
The Report says:
Energy will inevitably become less available and more expensive than it has been for the last few decades. The change will be permanent. Adapting to this scenario while maintaining the UK’s standard of living will require fundamental changes in the way we produce and use energy. All sources of energy will be required.
• Fossil fuels will remain our most important source for the next 50 years, despite a growing role for renewable energy. Clean systems, including carbon capture and storage, should be pursued urgently.
• Nuclear fission energy is a proven and reliable technology that will inevitably have a key role in a future clean energy mix.
• Renewable energy sources will play a growing role, but will require continued support in development and deployment if they are to match the cost levels of conventional systems.
• Energy demand reduction measures will be as important as generation technologies, and will require both technological and behavioural changes. Existing technology for energy efficiency is not fully exploited, and changing this is as important as new technology development.
• Engagement of the public in bringing about these changes is crucial, but requires more perceptive schemes that recognise the role energy plays in people’s lives, and not based on arguments appealing to technical or economic rationality.
• Industry and commerce is prepared to play its role, but needs consistent incentive mechanisms given the absence of immediate market imperatives to change current practice.
• Government has the key role to play by providing consistent market signals, reinforced by structured and affordable incentives; implementing regulatory structures to bring about changes in the energy system, and taking responsibility for an effective engagement of the public in the process.
• The market alone will not deliver the aspirations of energy policy, and clear means to encourage the necessary changes are essential.
The report will be published at the Royal Society in London, where it will be presented before an Expert Panel, chaired by Lord Oxburgh KBE FRS [Note 3], immediate past Chairman of the House of Lords Science & Technology Committee, and an audience consisting of many who participated in the Burlington House sessions, invited guests and other interested parties [Note 4].
1. The Geological Society of London is a learned and professional body, of over 9000 Earth scientists with a remit to investigate, interpret, discuss, inform and advise on the nature and processes of the Earth, their practical importance to humanity, and, in the interests of the public, to promote professional excellence. Registered Charity No. 210161.
2. The Solutions Conference was co-sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute of Physics, the Energy Institute, the Institution of Electrical Engineers and the Institution of Civil Engineers. Funding was also provided by the Natural Environment Research Council, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
3. In addition to its Chair Lord Oxburgh, the Expert Panel will include: The Lord Broers FRS FREng (President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Chairman of the House of Lords Science & Technology Committee), Dr Vincent Cable MP (Lib. Dem. Shadow Chancellor), Rt. Hon. Bernard Jenkin MP (Con. Shadow Energy Minister), and Sir John Lawton CBE FRS (Chair of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution). Also present will be the Energy Solutions Panel, comprising John Loughhead (UKERC, report author) Richard Hardman (Solutions Conference Chair), Charles Curtis (University of Manchester, UK Nirex), David Jenkins (formerly BP), Feroze Duggan (Institute of Physics), Jeremy Leggett (SolarCentury), Martin Fry (Energy Institute) and Shaun Fitzgerald (BP Institute, Cambridge University).
4. For more details of this event go to http://www.geolsoc.org.uk/template.cfm?name=Solutions2
5. For details of the October two-day event go to http://www.geolsoc.org.uk/template.cfm?name=Solutions.
Ted Nield | alfa