Energy policy in the UK

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A number of important reports concerned with energy policy have been published in the UK since the year 2000.

The first of these is Energy in a Changing Climate published in 2000 by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP)74 - an expert body that provides advice to government. It supported the concept of 'contraction and convergence' (Figure 10.5) as a basis for future international action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pointed out that application of this concept would imply a goal of 60% reduction in UK emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. To achieve such a goal more effective measures are needed to increase energy effi ciency (especially in buildings) and to encourage the growth of renewable energy sources especially by greatly increased R&D.

An Energy Review by the Policy and Innovation Unit (PIU) of the UK Cabinet Office,75 published in 2002, provided input into an Energy White Paper, Our Energy Future: Creating a Low Carbon Economy, a policy statement by the UK government in 200376 that accepted the goal set by the RCEP of a 60% reduction in emissions by 2050. An estimate in the PIU review of the cost to the UK economy of realising the RCEP goal is expressed as a possible slowing in the growth of the UK economy of six months over the 50-year period.

A further Energy White Paper was introduced in 2007 and in November 2008, a Climate Change Bill was passed by Parliament that legislates mandatory targets of an 80% reduction of national CO2e emissions from 1990 levels by 2050 and of 26% by 2020.77 It also provides for revision of these targets should the Climate Change Committee, that is also set up by the Bill, deem it necessary. The challenge to the government and the country is the practical realization of these targets.

turning down in the 22nd century. However, they also show that emissions profiles that peak later than 2016 are unlikely to meet either of the criteria.71 As mentioned in chapter 10, page 315, similar arguments about the danger of even smaller increases of global average temperature - more than around 1 °C - have led James Hansen to argue that action needs to be organised to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to bring its concentrations back to around 350 ppm.72

Taking all these six points on board emphasises emphatically that fundamental to the scientific story I have presented is the move to a zero carbon future with no significant net anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Over the past two decades as our scientific understanding has grown, it has been increasingly realised that we must make this move as quickly as possible. A path towards achieving large reductions has been demonstrated by the IEA and other bodies. It is achievable, affordable and will bring with it many co-benefits. The immediate challenge is to ensure that global CO2 emissions peak well before 2020 and to begin now to work towards zero carbon by or even before 205073 - which implies even tougher action than that presented in Figure 11.27.


This chapter has outlined the ways in which energy for human life and industry is currently provided. Growth in conventional energy sources at the rate required to meet the world's future energy needs will generate greatly increased emissions of greenhouse gases that will lead to unacceptable climate change. Such would not be consistent with the agreements reached at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development at Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 when the countries of the world committed themselves to the action necessary to address the problems of energy and the environment. The objective of the Climate Convention agreed at that Conference requires that emissions of carbon dioxide be drastically reduced so that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is stabilised by the end of the twenty-first century. As the IEA have stated in their World Energy Outlook 2008, 'What is needed is nothing short of an energy revolution' on a global scale. Necessary areas of action are the following.

• Many studies have shown that in most developed countries improvements in energy efficiency of 30-50% or more can be achieved at little or no net cost and often with overall saving (see Figure 11.26). But industry and individuals will require not just encouragement, but incentives if the savings are to be realised.

• A long-term energy strategy needs to be formulated nationally and internationally, that addresses economic considerations alongside environmental and social ones that takes into account inter alia the need for development of local energy source as well as centralised ones and the requirement for energy security.

• Since no technology can provide a 'silver bullet' solution, all possibilities for low-carbon energy must be explored and appropriately developed so as to realise all effective contributions as rapidly as possible. Essential to this process will be much increased investment in Research/Development.

• To stem the rapid growth of carbon dioxide emissions from coal and gas fired power stations, carbon capture and storage (CCS) must be installed aggressively and urgently in new power stations and retrofitted where possible in existing stations.

• Much of the necessary technology is available for renewable energy sources (especially 'modern' biomass, wind and solar energy) to be developed and implemented, so as to replace energy from fossil fuels. For this to be done on an adequate scale, an economic framework with appropriate incentives needs urgently to be set up. Policy options available include the removal of subsidies, carbon or energy taxes (which recognise the environmental cost associated with the use of fossil fuels) and tradeable permits coupled with capping of emissions.

• To meet the targets of 2 °C global average temperature rise and 450 ppm carbon dioxide equivalent stabilisation described in Chapter 10, rapid decarbonisation must take place in all sectors of energy generation and use, the aim being that before 2050 global electricity provision and most transport must be carbon free (Figure 11.27). The overall aim is for a zero carbon future to be realised as quickly as possible.

• Arrangements are urgently needed to ensure that technology is available for all countries (including developing countries through technology transfer) to develop their energy plans with high efficiency and to deploy renewable energy sources (for instance, local biomass, solar energy or wind generators) as widely as possible.

• World investment in the energy industry up to 2050 (including by consumers in capital equipment that consumes energy, e.g. in motor vehicles) in the IEA Reference scenario (i.e. business-as-usual) is estimated to be about $US250 trillion (million million) or about 6% of cumulative world GDP over the period. For the IEA Blue Map scenario the additional investment needs are estimated as $US45 trillion, an increase of 18% over the Reference scenario. The IEA also point out that, compared with the Reference scenario, the BLUE Map scenario will result in fuel savings over the period 2005 to 2050, amounting to about $US50 trillion - of the same order as the increased investment required.

These actions imply a technological revolution on a scale and at a rate of change much greater than any the world has yet experienced - a revolution that involves the whole world community working together in unprecedented cooperation both in bringing it about and enjoying its benefits. It demands clear policies, commitment and resolve on the part of governments, industries and individual consumers. Because of the long life time of energy infrastructure (e.g. power stations) and also because of the time required for the changes required to be realised, there is an inescapable urgency about the actions to be taken. As the World Energy Council pointed out over 15 years ago, 'the real challenge is to communicate the reality that the switch to alternative forms of supply will take many decades, and thus the realisation of the need, and commencement of the appropriate action, must be now' (their italics).78 If that was true in 1993 it even more true now (my italics!).


1 Estimate how much energy you use per year in your home or your apartment. How much of this comes from fossil fuels? What does it contribute to emissions of carbon dioxide?

2 Estimate how much energy your car uses per year. What does this contribute to emissions of carbon dioxide?

3 Look up estimates made at different times over the last 30 years of the size of world reserves of coal, oil and gas. What do you deduce from the trend of these estimates?

4 Estimate annual energy saving for your country as a result of: (1) unnecessary lights in all homes being switched off; (2) all homes changing all light bulbs to low-energy ones; (3) all homes being maintained 1°C cooler during the winter.

5 Find out for your country the fuel sources that contribute to electricity supply. Suppose a typical home heated by electricity in the winter is converted to gas heating, what would be the change in annual carbon dioxide emissions?

6 Find out about the cost of heat pumps and building insulation. For a typical building, compare the costs (capital and running costs) of reducing by 75% the energy required to heat it by installing heat pumps or by adding to the insulation.

7 Visit a large electrical store and collate information relating to the energy consumption and the performance of domestic appliances: refrigerators, cookers, microwave ovens and washing machines. Which do you think are the most energy efficient and how do they compare with the least energy efficient? Also how well labelled were the appliances with respect to energy consumption and efficiency?

8 Consider a flat-roofed house of typical size in a warm, sunny country with a flat roof incorporating 50 mm thickness of insulation (refer to Table 11.1). Estimate the extra energy that would have to be removed by air conditioning if the roof were painted black rather than white. How much would this be reduced if the insulation were increased to a thickness of 150 mm?

9 Rework the calculations of total heating required for the building considered in Table 11.1 supposing insulation 250 mm thick (the Danish standard) were installed in the cavity walls and in the roof.

10 Look up articles about the environmental and social impact of large dams. Do you consider the benefits of the power generated by hydroelectric means are worth the environmental and social damage?

11 Suppose an area of 10 km2 was available for use for renewable energy sources, to grow biomass, to mount PV solar cells or to mount wind generators. What criteria would determine which use would be most effective? Compare the effectiveness for each use in a typical area of your country.

12 What do you consider the most important factors that prevent the greater use of nuclear energy? How do you think their seriousness compares with the costs or damages arising from other forms of energy production?

13 In the IPCC 1995 Report, Chapter 19, you will find information about the LESS scenarios. In particular, estimates are provided, for different alternatives, of the amount of land that will be needed in different parts of the world for the production of energy from biomass. For your own country or region, find out how easily, on the timescale required, it is likely that this amount of land could be provided. What would be the likely consequences arising from using the land for biomass production rather than for other purposes?

14 In making arguments for a carbon tax would you attempt to relate it to the likely cost of damage from global warming (Chapter 9), or would you relate it to what is required to enable appropriate renewable energies to compete at an adequate level? Find recent cost information about different renewable energies and estimate the level of carbon tax that would enable there to be greater employment of different forms of renewable energy: (1) at the present time, (2) in 2020.

15 In discussing policy options, attention is often given to 'win-win' situations or to those with a 'double dividend', i.e. situations in which, when a particular action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, additional benefits arise as a bonus. Describe examples of such situations.

16 Of the policy options listed towards the end of the chapter, which do you think could be most effective in your country?

17 List the various environmental impacts of different renewable energy sources, biomass, wind, solar PV and marine (tidal and wave). How would you assess the seriousness of these impacts compared with the advantages to the environment of the contribution from these sources to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions?

18 Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of local energy sources as opposed to centralised energy provision through large grid networks. Identify locations in the world known to you where local or centralised would be most appropriate.

19 Compare how the elements in the Kaya Identity - energy intensity, carbon intensity, GDP per capita and population-have changed in a sample group of countries over the last 20 years. Comment on the differences between the countries and the possible reasons for them.

20 In a speech on Energy in Washington on 17 July 2008, Al Gore referred to striking examples of deliberate and rapid actions taken by US Presidents in the past - by Franklin Roosevelt in the Lease-Lend programme in 1941 and by John F. Kennedy who launched the Apollo project in 1961. He proposed that deliberate action should now be taken by the United States to tackle the problem of climate change and proposed, for instance, that a target for the US could be set of carbon-free electricity within the next 10 years. Reflect on the benefits to the world and to the United States of these particular actions in the past and compare them with the challenge of climate change now.

21 Suppose the net cooling from aerosols were halved from 2050 onwards and that greenhouse gases other than CO2 were still at their 1990 levels, estimate the change in profile of further reductions of CO2 that would be necessary to maintain the 450 ppm CO2e stabilisation target. Does your answer require withdrawal of CO2 already in the atmosphere between 2050 and 2100 (refer to Figure 10.3)? If so, make an estimate of how much and investigate what means might accomplish it.


Metz, B., Davidson, O., Bosch, P., Dave, R., Meyer, L. (eds) 2007. Climate Change 2007: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Technical Summary

Chapter 2 Framing issues (e.g. links to sustainable development, integrated assessment)

Chapter 3 Issues relating to mitigation in the long-term context

Chapter 4 Energy supply

Chapter 5 Transport and its infrastructure

Chapter 6 Residential and commercial buildings

Chapter 7 Industry

Chapter 10 Waste management

Chapter 11 Mitigation from a cross-sectoral perspective Chapter 12 Sustainable development and mitigation

International Energy Agency. World Energy Outlook 2007. Part A Global energy prospects Part B China's energy prospects Part C India's energy prospects

International' Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook 2008 (published in November 2008, about 500 pages including many figures; contains detail upto 2030 of the IEA Reference scenario and of Scenarios designed to meet the challenge of the environment and climate change.)

International Energy Agency, Energy Technology Perspectives 2008 (chapters on energy scenarios, different sectors and technologies)

Stern, N. 2006. The Economics of Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. The Stern Review: especially chapters in Part III on the economics of mitigation.

Boyle, G., Everett, R., Ramage, J. (eds.) 2003. Energy Systems and Sustainability: Power for a Sustainable Future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Scientific American, Special Issue on Energy's future beyond carbon, September 2006 (including novel technologies and a hydrogen future).

Monbiot, G. 2007 Heat: How to Stop the Planets from Burning. London: Allen Lane. A lively presentation of some of the technical, political and personal dilemmas.


1 1 toe = 11.7 MWh = 4.19x 1010 J; 1 Gtoe = 1.9 x 1018 J = 1.9 EJ;

2 Report of G8 Renewable Energy Task Force, July 2001.

3 International Energy Agency. 2008. World Energy Outlook 2008. Paris: International Energy Agency.

4 International Energy Agency. 2008. Energy Technology Perspectives. Paris: International Energy Agency.

8 Socolow, R.H., Pacala, S.W. 2006. Scientific American., 295, 28-35.

9 See Chapter 9, page 272.

10 That government expenditure on energy R&D in the UK is now less than 5% of what it was 20 years ago provides an illustration of lack of commitment or urgency on the government's part.

11 IEA, World Energy Outlook, 2006, Table 14.6.

12 World Energy Council. 1993. Energy for Tomorrow's World: The Realities, the Real Options and the Agenda for Achievement. New York: World Energy Council, p. 122.

13 WEC, Energy for Tomorrow's World, p. 113.

14 Ways of achieving large reductions in all these sectors are described by von Weizacker, E.,

Lovins, A. B., Lovins, L. H. 1997. Factor Four, Doubling Wealth: Halving Resource Use. London: Earthscan.

15 More detail of heat pumps and their applications in Smith, P. F. 2003. Sustainability at the Cutting Edge. London: Architectural Press, pp. 45-50.

16 From National Academy of Sciences. 1992. Policy Implications of Greenhouse Warming. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, Chapter 21.

17 Smith, P.F. 2007. Sustainability at the Cutting Edge, second edition. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

19 Smith, P.F. 2001. Architecture in a Climate of Change. London: Architectural Press.

20 See, for instance, von Weizacker, E., Lovins, A. B., Lovins, L. H. 1997. Factor Four, Doubling Wealth: Halving Resource Use. London: Earthscan, pp. 28-9.

21 For instance Roaf, S. et al. 2001. Ecohouse: a Design Guide. London: Architectural Press.

22 See

23 Note that the air transport fraction should be at least doubled to allow for the effects of increased high cloud mentioned in Chapter 3 on page 63.

24 See Mobility Report of World Business Council on Sustainable

25 More detail in Moomaw, W.R., Moreira 2001. Section 3.4, in Metz, J.R., Davidson, O., Swart, R., Pan, J., (eds.) 2001. Climate Change 2001: Mitigation.

26 From the Summary for policymakers, in Penner, J., Lister D., Griggs, D.J., Dokken, D.J., Mcfarland, M. (eds.) 1999. Aviation and the Global Atmosphere. A Special Report of the IPCC. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

27 For more detail on industrial emissions and possible reductions see Energy Technology Perspectives, IEA, Chapter 12.

28 From speech by Lord Browne, BP Chief Executive to the Institutional Investors Group, London, 26 November 2003.

29 For example, British Sugar with an annual turnover in 1992 of £700 million spent £21 million per year on energy. Through low-grade heat recovery, co-generation schemes and better control of heating and lighting, the spend on energy per tonne of sugar had been reduced by 41% from that in 1980 (example quoted in Energy, Environment and Profits. 1993. London: Energy Efficiency Office of the Department of the Environment).

30 See International Energy Agency, Capturing CO2:; also Furnival S. 2006 Carbon capture and storage, Physics World, 19, 24-27. Also see IPCC Special Report. Metz, B. et al. (eds.) 2005 Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Also available from

31 Carbonaceous fuel is burnt to form carbon monoxide, CO, which then reacts with steam according to the equation CO + H2O = carbon dioxide + H2.

32 International Energy Agency, Energy Technology Perspectives 2008, pp. 134-5

33 See Scientific American, 295, 52-9, 2006.

34 In countries such as the UK, there are substantial quantities of plutonium now in surplus from military programmes that could be used in nuclear power stations (and degraded in the process) -assisting with greenhouse gas reductions in the medium term and not adding to the proliferation problem. See Wilkinson, W. L. 2001. Management of the UK plutonium stockpile: the economic case for burning as MOX in new PWRs. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 26, 303-6.

35 'Large' hydro applies to schemes greater than 10 MW in capacity; 'small' hydro to schemes smaller than 10 MW.

36 For more information see IEA, Energy Technology Perspectives, Chapter 12, from where the numbers for hydro potential quoted here have been taken.

37 See review by Loening, A. 2003. Landfill gas and related energy sources; anaerobic digesters; biomass energy systems. In Issues in Environmental Science and Technology, No. 19. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry, pp. 69-88.

38 Moomaw and Moreira, Section in Metz et al. (eds.) Climate Change 2001: Mitigation.

39 Twidell, J., Weir, T. 1986. Renewable Energy Resources. London: E. and F. Spon, p. 291.

40 See review by Loening A. 2003.

41 From Report of the Renewable Energy Advisory Group, Energy Paper No. 60. 1992. London: UK Department of Trade and Industry.

42 These projects are supported by the Shell Foundation (, a charity set up to promote sustainable energy for the Third World.

43 See Incineration of Waste. 1993. 17th Report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. London: HMSO, pp. 43-7.

44 Sustainable Biofuels: Prospects and Challenges, report by Royal Society of London 2008:

45 Tollefson, J. 2008. Not your father's biofuels. Nature, 451, 880-3. From fi rst to second generation biofuel technologies, International Energy Agency, IEA, paris 2008, for a discussion of the technology's status, also available at publications/free_new_desc.acp?PUBS_ID=2074

46 See Infield, D., Rowley, P. 2003. Renewable energy: technology considerations and electricity integration. Issues in Environmental Science and Technology, No. 19. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry, pp. 49-68.

47 Martinot, E. et al. 2002. Renewable energy markets in developing countries. Annual Review of Energy and the Environment, 27, 309-48.

48 Twidell and Weir, Renewable Energy Resources, p. 252.

49 Martinot et al. 2002.

50 Smith, P.F. 2001. Architecture in a Climate of Change. London: Architectural Press.

51 For a summary of current technology see IEA, Energy Technology Perspectives, IEA, Chapter 11.

52 See solar energy news feature in Nature, 2006, 443, 19-24.

53 Martinot et al. 2002.

54 index.html.

55 Renewables for Heating and Cooling, 2007, International Energy Agency, Paris, available at: desc.asp/?PUBS_ID=1975

56 See

57 See Boyle, G. 1996. Renewable Energy Power for a Sustainable Future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

58 See Elliott, D. 2003. Sustainable energy: choices, problems and opportunities. Issues in Environmental Science and Technology No. 19. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry, pp. 19-47.

59 Energy: The Changing Climate. 2000. 22nd Report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. London: Stationery Office, p. 81.

60 From speech by Lord Browne, BP Chief Executive, to the Institutional Investors Group, London, 26 November 2003.

61 Based on Summary for policymakers. Section 4.4, in Watson, R.T., Zinyowera, M.C., Moss, R.H. (eds.) 1996. Climate Change 1995: Impacts Adaptations and Mitigations of Climate Change: Scientific-Technical Analyses. Contribution of Working Group II to the Second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

62 See Mullins, F. 2003. Emissions trading schemes: are they a licence to pollute? Issues in Environmental Science and Technology No.19. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry, pp. 89-103.

63 The material for this section comes from Chapter 11, Section 11.3 (also summarised in the Summary for Policymakers) of Metz et al. (eds.) Climate Change 2007: Mitigation.

64 For a recent review see Eikerling, M. et al. 2007. Physics World, 20, 32-6.

65 For hydrogen from coal see Liang-Shih Fan. 2007, Physics World, 20, 37-41.

66 By reacting natural gas (methane CH4) with steam through the reaction 2H2O + CH4 = CO2 + 4H2.

68 See Scientific American, 295, 70-77, 2006.

69 McCraken, G., Stott, P. 2004. Fusion, the Energy of the Universe. New York: Elsevier/Academic Press.

70 The Committee on Climate Change, www.theccc., Inaugural Report December 2008, Building a low-carbon economy - the UK's contribution to tackling climate change, Part 1, the 2050 target.

71 The IEA World Energy Outlook published in December 2008 presents a 450 ppm scenario that differs from that in their Energy Technology Perspectives of June 2008. In particular, without extensive early retirement of existing power stations and other energy capital, it is not considered possible to achieve a peak of CO2 emissions before 2020. Therefore, although still demanding, their new scenario weakens the possibility of achieving the 2 °C target and fails to meet the criteria set by the UK Committee on Climate Change.

72 James Hansen, Bjerknes Lecture at American Geophysical Union, 17 December 2008, AGUBjerknes_20081217.pdf.

73 see for instance,; or www. zerocarbonbritain, published by Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynlleth, Wales.


75 report/index.htm



78 From Energy for Tomorrow's World: the Realities, the Real Options and the Agenda for Achievement. WEC Commission Report. NewYork: World Energy Council, 1993, p. 88.

79 From Energy for Tomorrow's World: the Realities, the Real Options and the Agenda for Achievement. WEC Commission Report. NewYork: World Energy Council, 1993, p.88.

Claude Monet's views of the River Thames and the Houses of Parliament show the sun struggling to shine through London's smog-laden atmosphere (1904).

THE PRECEDING chapters have considered the various strands of the global warming story and the action that should be taken. In this last chapter I want first to present some of the challenges of global warming, especially those which arise because of its global nature. I then want to put global warming in the context of other major global problems faced by humankind.

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