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DRAFT submission for the uk government's public CONSULTATION ON UK Energy POLICY

2006-02-10

The UK Government's 3-month public consultation on national Energy policy was announced on the 23rd of January
and this web page contains a draft submission (below). As part of the consultation, the Government has published a consultation paper Our Energy Challenge - Securing clean, affordable energy for the long-term to which this submission relates.

Any comments or suggestions will be very welcome.

If you are making a submission to the Government (it's open to anyone), please feel free to borrow any parts of this submission that you want.

It would be good if there was emphasis on the TREC/TRANS-CSP vision of how 'concentrating solar power' (CSP) and wind power in North Africa and the Middle East may supply electricity to those areas and the whole of Europe via high-tension power lines (see http://www.mng.org.uk/green_house/renewable_energy/csp.htm). Judging by the DTI and DEFRA websites, CSP is almost invisible in Government thinking.

Greater awareness that big cuts in CO2 emissions are possible without undue cost, inconvenience or risk should help smooth the path for mandatory 3% annual cuts in UK emissions of CO2 as proposed in EDM 178 (http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=28373).

If politicians (and the general public) were more aware of the huge potential of CSP, there would be much less willingness to accept the argument that nuclear power stations are the only way to plug the gap left as old nuclear power stations are closed down.

Gerry Wolff

"From Greenhouse to Green House", Email.

Q.1. What more could the government do on the demand or supply side to
ensure that the UK’s long-term goal of reducing carbon emissions is met?


DEMAND SIDE:

1.1 DOMESTIC TRADABLE CARBON RATIONS. Introduce DTCRs (also known as 'tradable energy quotas') - see www.mng.org.uk/green_house/dtcrs.htm.

Unlike carbon taxes, DTCRs have the great merit that, if the right numbers of credits are issued, there will be at least as many winners as losers. There should, as a consequence, be much less resistance from the public than there would be to new carbon taxes. Another advantage is that the cost to the Government is only the cost of administering the scheme and there is a reduced need or no need for expensive subsidies or tax breaks. And, if the right numbers of credits are issued, DTCRs create a raft of incentives to reduce CO2 emissions, right through the economy. This is very much simpler than a complex set of taxes, tax breaks, subsidies, quangos and exhortation that are otherwise needed.

1.2 ECO-RENOVATION AND 'SUPER' INSULATION. Heating buildings is a major source of CO2 emissions in the UK. Given that we are very unlikely to tear down all our badly-insulated buildings and replace them with brand new 'eco' buildings, there is a pressing need for 'eco-renovation' of existing buildings. The target to aim for is zero emissions of (fossil) CO2 and, for the majority of buildings, this is likely to mean very high levels of externally-applied 'super' insulation and draft-proofing (far in excess of ordinary cavity-wall insulation), together with the use of heat exchangers to allow good ventilation without undue loss of heat.

In order for this to happen on a large scale, three things must be in place:

  • The necessary techniques and materials must have been developed to the point where they can readily be applied by contractors—and training must be provided if necessary. It may be necessary for the Government to sponsor appropriate research, development and training to ensure that the necessary techniques, materials and trained people are available.
  • There must be sufficient incentive to encourage householders and owners of larger buildings to commission the necessary work. This may be achieved via DTCRs but there may also be a need for subsidies or other financial incentives.
  • It is likely that planning regulations and planning practices will need to be revised to take account of the fact that 'super' insulation applied to the outsides of buildings will alter their appearance.

SUPPLY SIDE:

1.3 CONCENTRATING SOLAR POWER

Enormous quantities of energy fall as sunlight on the world’s hot deserts and ‘concentrating solar power’ (CSP) is a proven technology for tapping in to it (see, for example, the website of the US Government's Department of Energy at www.eere.energy.gov/solar/csp.html). This is not some futuristic possibility like fusion nuclear power. It is a relatively simple, mature and practical technology that, with the right political and financial impetus, can be brought into play very soon.

There is a web page about CSP at www.trec-uk.org.uk/csp.htm, including several links to other sources.

Of particular interest are:

  • The 'TREC' proposal that it is feasible and economic for CSP plants—and wind farms—in North Africa and the Middle East to provide electrical power for those areas and for the whole of Europe via high-tension power lines. Contrary to what is often assumed, modern techniques for the transmission of electricity make it feasible to transmit electricity over long distances with acceptably small losses of power. There is a nice fit between wind power in northern Europe, which is greatest in the winter, and solar or wind power from North Africa and the Middle East, which is greatest in the summer.
  • Under the heading 'TRANS-CSP' there are links to detailed projections prepared for the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) showing how, even allowing for increases in demand for energy, CSP with other technologies can yield deep cuts in CO2 emissions from electricity generation by 2050, with a phase-out of nuclear power at the same time.

CSP is a glaring omission from "Annex A: Overview of Generating Technologies" in the Govenment's consultation paper Our Energy Challenge - Securing clean, affordable energy for the long-term.

Q.2 With the UK becoming a net energy importer and with big investments to be made over the next twenty years in generating capacity and networks, what further steps, if any, should the government take to develop our market framework for delivering reliable energy supplies? In particular, we invite views on the implications of increased dependence on gas imports.

2.1 Recent problems in the supply of gas from Russia, suggest that it would be unwise to put too much reliance on supplies from that area. With regard to CO2 emissions, mineral gas is much better than coal or oil (because it contains more hydrogen and less carbon) but if it is burned in the ordinary way, it still releases significant amounts of CO2.

2.2 The potential in renewable forms of energy is huge. Apart from CSP, which could totally transform our calculations, there are several very promising technologies available including the Pelamis 'sea snake' (www.oceanpd.com/), marine turbines (www.marineturbines.com/home.htm), tidal lagoons (www.tidalelectric.com/), and huge potential in microgeneration from small wind turbines, photovoltaics, combined heat and power (eg www.whispergen.com/whispergen/), and so on.

Some of the options, many of which are already known to the Government, are summarised in www.mng.org.uk/green_house/renewable_energy/renewables_potential.htm .

2.3 Given the huge potential of CSP, and current lack of awareness about this potential, there is a pressing need for the Government to develop a strategy, in partnership with other countries in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, to ensure that this potential is realised as soon as is practicable. This means raising awareness of the possibilities, especially amongst industries that may be involved in the manufacture and installation of the necessary equipment, removing unnecessary obstacles to these developments, and providing pump-priming grants or tax breaks to get the market moving. There are huge commercial opportunities in CSP and British industry should not be left behind.

2.4 There is a pressing need to deal with the waste of energy from electronic equipment that is kept on 'stand by'. It should not be difficult to redesign equipment to eliminate this waste without sacrificing convenience for users. There should be appropriate laws, regulations and incentives (both positive and negative) to eliminate this sloppiness in the way electronic equipment has been designed.

Q.3 The Energy White Paper left open the option of nuclear new build. Are there particular considerations that should apply to nuclear, as the government re-examines the issues bearing on new build, including long-term liabilities and waste management? If so, what are these, and how should the government address them?

DON'T DO IT! Given the huge potential of CSP and other renewable technologies (see www.mng.org.uk/green_house/renewable_energy/renewables_potential.htm) and given the many headaches associated with nuclear power (see www.mng.org.uk/green_house/renewable_energy/no_nukes.htm), and the considerable public resistance to nuclear power, it would be monumental folly to waste money on building new nuclear power stations. Developing the many attractive sources of renewable energy would give a much better return on investments. With the right political and financial impetus, CSP, Pelamis and other renewable sources of power can be brought on stream very soon.

The 'TRANS-CSP' projections (above) show clearly that, even allowing for increasing demands for energy, Europe can make deep cuts in CO2 emissions and phase out nuclear power at the same time.

Q.4 Are there particular considerations that should apply to carbon abatement and other low-carbon technologies.

4.1 A wind-fall tax on oil companies' huge profits (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4696924.stm) will pay for many of the measures that are needed.

4.2 There is a pressing need for a cross-party coalition of climate change, as proposed by Norman Baker MP and Oliver Letwin MP, and that coalition should include the Labour Party. The threats of climate change (www.mng.org.uk/green_house/threat/threat.htm) are so serious that they must be taken out of the party-political arena and treated with at least as much seriousness as if the country were going to war.

Q.5 What further steps should be taken towards meeting the government’s goals for ensuring that every home is adequately and affordably heated?

See 'eco-renovation' and 'super' insulation, above.

i. The long term potential of energy efficiency measures in the transport, residential, business and public sectors, and how best to achieve that potential.

Given that many cars often travel less than 100 miles each day, and given that there are several models of electric car that have good performance and can deliver miles-per-charge in excess of 100  (see www.evuk.co.uk/), there is a pressing need to make these models available in the UK at affordable prices. If the electricity used for charging these vehicles is from a 'green', renewable tariff, then the widespread adoption of such cars will make a major contribution to the reduction of CO2 emissions from road transport.

Naturally, there are many journeys that are for more than 100 miles in any one day. With appropriate expansion of the rail network, many of these journeys can be made by train. For personal journeys that must be made by car, or for the transport of goods that cannot be done by rail, then hybrid vehicles are a stop-gap solution that deliver significant improvements in energy efficiency compared with vehicles powered by non-hybrid internal combustion engines. The judicious use of bio-fuels can also help to reduce CO2 emissions.

Trains: although these are relatively fuel-efficient, they are still powered by fossil fuels or by electricity generated from fossil fuels or nuclear power. There is a pressing need to switch to greener sources of energy: 'green' electricity generated from CSP, wind, waves, tidal streams and tidal lagooons, biodiesel, hydrogen produced by CSP plants in North Africa and the Middle East, methane produced by anaerobic digestion of organic waste, and so on.

ii. Implications in the medium and long term for the transmission and network networks of significant new build in gas and electricity generation infrastructure.

Part of the TREC and TRANS-CSP scenarios is the transmission of electricity over long-distance high-tension power lines. Many of these are already in place. But there will be a need for a Europe-wide review of what is currently available, what upgrades may be needed and what new transmission lines may need to be built.

iii. Opportunities for more joint working with other countries on our energy policy goals.

See the TREC and TRANS-CSP scenarios referenced above.

iv. Potential measures to help bring forward technologies to replace fossil fuels in transport and heat generation in the medium and long term.

See the remarks above about the need to expand the market for electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles and bio-fuels.

A significant issue in relation to transport and heat generation is how the necessary energy may be transported and stored. Interesting proposals for energy vectors include:

To increase the range of options available in a low-carbon future, the development of technologies like these should be supported and encouraged.