This article shows how the UK can achieve a 60% reduction on the total year 2000 CO2 emissions, i.e. to reduce the emission of CO2 in the UK to 40% of the 2000 emissions. It describes the development of an integrated energy system for the UK which will enable renewable energy systems in conjunction with hydrogen technology to supply an increasing share of the whole energy market.emission. It describes the development of an integrated energy system for the UK which will enable renewable energy systems in conjunction with hydrogen technology to supply an increasing share of the whole energy market.
In this article the reader can see the assumptions and outputs and can modify them if the reader does not agree and so explore the proposed policies.
There is some Government consultation at present but it does not deal with market share for the different renewable energy technologies.
At present there is no structured public debate on the detail of how to reduce CO2. The media is pushed around by various special interest groups promoting their different technologies but no one in the public domain, including the Government, is trying to put all the elements together into a workable quantified policy that projects how future energy supplies will be provided.
No one is actually putting figures to what is required. No doubt this detailed policy vacuum is the result of having a so called market economy but the market cannot look into the future, we have to have a plan to make sure the decisions of vested interests fit together. If we do not tackle the problem of allocating market share to different technologies and continue to rely on market forces then we could end up with unsustainable energy supplies and a ruined planet.
One indication of whether a report is dealing with energy policy or is promoting a vested interest is to remember that policy is about Gigawatts, if the piece you are reading is dealing with Megawatts then it is not dealing with policy.
The recent announcement by the Government of plans to develop more than 1 GW of UK offshore wind power is good news for renewables. Hopefully this is the beginning of a much greater expansion of renewable energy supplies, which if linked with the development of fuelcells and hydrogen could in due course solve the World's CO2 problems.
The envisaged timescale for establishing the transition to renewables and hydrogen is from now until 2025 and for a substantial switch to hydrogen by 2050. Although this is a 25 to 50 year period it is what we do now that is crucial. Only if we identify what we need to achieve in the years to come will we be able to pursue the appropriate policies now.
What is required is an integrated energy policy for the supply of electricity, transport and heat. Our view of what can be achieved in each of these sectors to achieve the required CO2 emissions reduction is based on the following approaches.
Since 2000 the mix of generating plant has diversified and the amount of electricity generated has increased and the demand for electricity will continue to increase. To embrace these changing parameters it is necessary to think in terms of CO2 production rather than electricity production.
By allocating a CO2 production rate to each component of the generation mix it is possible to compare directly today's and future predicted generation with the generation in 2000 . In this way we can derive for a given mix of generation now or in the future what percentage of the 2000 CO2 is being produced.
We can then take a pragmatic view of what the future generation mix is likely to be at say 2010, 2020 and 2030, based on today's trends and so predict future CO2 as a percentage of 2000 CO2. We avoid having to predict or provide for increased future generation by assuming that increased demand for electricity will be offset by increased efficiency of electricity use.
The conclusion for the electricity sector is that central generation can produce a reduction of 10% of 1990 total CO2 emissions and that by adopting decentralised generation based on domestic Combined Heat and Power a further 7 % reduction can be achieved.
If we change all transport to run on non-carbon or carbon-neutral fuels then we will eliminate all transport related CO2. The current amount of CO2 emitted by transport using existing fuels is a greater proportion of total CO2 than it was in 2000. Therefore if we eliminate transport CO2 we will have reduced CO2 emissions by more than 25% of the 2000 total CO2 because that was the proportion of CO2 produced by transport at that time.
Provided that transport changes to carbon-free or carbon-neutral fuels the growth in transport around the World can be accommodated. In fact changing to a non-carbon fuel such as hydrogen will be the only way of dealing with the otherwise overwhelming threat of increased CO2 emissions from transport, especially cars, from around the World.
The conclusion for the transport sector is that a reduction of at least 25% can be achieved.
The heat sector is the biggest energy sector and it is the easiest to improve because all we have to do is insulate our homes and offices more effectively and make sure that the money saved is not spent on other energy intensive activities like flying off on long haul holidays.
There is tremendous scope for improved insulation of buildings. All heat provided in buildings is "wasted" in a few hours because it simply leaks away through the walls, roof and floor. So the key to reducing CO2 is to reduce heat loss to reduce energy input. Improving the insulation of existing and also new buildings offers the best and quickest return on investment for saving energy and reducing CO2 emissions.
After improving the insulation of buildings the next best investment is to introduce Combined Heat and Power distributed generation of electricity which can save about 7% of 2000 total CO2 by using the waste heat from electricity generation.
Because the Heat Sector is the biggest energy sector it is reasonable to allocate a reduction target of 25% of total 2000 CO2, this could be achieved by domestic insulation alone without CHP or looking at hydrogen . However because heat is such a big energy sector it holds the key to going beyond the 60% reduction of 2000 total CO2 as recommended by the Royal Commission on Climate Change. To achieve this we would need all buildings to be super-insulated and CHP distributed generation running on hydrogen distributed by an extended national gas grid. We would then have a hydrogen-powered world and the CO2 problem would be history.
James Nash is a climate scientist with Greatest Planet (www.greatestplanet.org). Greatest Planet is a non-profit environmental organization specialising in carbon offset investments.
James Nash is solely responsible for the contents of this article.