Posts

A view from 2050

An imagined speech, the Zero-Carbon World Oration for 2050, was used by Wiseman (2017) as a vehicle “to describe one plausible narrative of the way in which a rapid energy transition might unfold, informed by a range of modelling and scenario studies”. The writer takes us through a series of supposed milestones between 2020 and 2050, including the growth of renewables, energy storage and smart grids; the attainment of carbon neutrality by leading cities; the phasing out of internal combustion engines and the use of renewable fuels and electrification for long distance transport; the demise of coal and oil; the expansion of carbon pricing; the use of emissions-free steel and concrete; and the mobilization of funds to address the impact of climate change and energy transition on the most vulnerable populations.Wiseman’s fictitious orator describes a world that in 2050 has escaped total climate disaster, and is on track to achieve a net zero carbon economy by 2060, but nevertheless still…

Hydrogen, Storage and Renewable Energy

In his book on the strategy needed to enable the UK to address the threat from climate change, Chris Goodall mentions hydrogen more than a hundred times (Goodall, 2020). Describing the connection between renewable energy and hydrogen, he cites “ the great British biologist J.B.S. Haldane, who foresaw the importance of renewable electricity combined with hydrogen as the basis of the entire energy system as early as 1923”. Here is part of Haldane’s lecture, given in Cambridge:“Personally, I think that … the power question in England may be solved somewhat as follows: The country will be covered with rows of metallic windmills working electric motors which in their turn supply current at a very high voltage to great electric mains. At suitable distances, there will be great power stations where during windy weather the surplus power will be used for the electrolytic decomposition of water into oxygen and hydrogen. These gasses will be … stored in … reservoirs, probably sunk in the ground…

Home Economics

The subject of this post is the heating and insulation of homes in the UK, with particular regard to the capital cost of reducing carbon emissions. The costs estimated for homes will be compared with those of other ways of achieving carbon reduction. While the calculations which appear below are based as far as possible on realistic figures, they should be regarded as for illustration only.UK Government policies on domestic energy and retrofitA policy paper on the 2020 UK Budget stated that “The heating of our homes will need to be virtually zero carbon by 2050, replacing natural gas and other fossil fuels with low carbon alternatives – likely to be primarily a mix of green gas, heat pumps and heat networks” (Treasury, 2020).As part of an economic statement issued in July, Chancellor Rishi Sunak outlined plans for green home upgrades. Reporting on the details of the plan, Naomi Schraer wrote that vouchers “worth up to £5,000 will be issued to homeowners in England to make their homes …

Nuclear Power and Carbon Neutrality

Spring and early summer brought unusually generous amounts of sunshine to the UK, with correspondingly high outputs from solar installations. However, calm weather in May resulted in a collapse of wind power on several days. These conditions prompted comment on the relationship between the generation of renewable power in the UK and imports of electricity from Europe (Watson, 2020). His article points out that some of the imported energy comes indirectly from coal-fired power stations, and much from nuclear power stations in France. This post considers some issues concerning the place of nuclear power in a decarbonising society. In a chapter on the future of nuclear power, Dieter Helm wrote that its advocates claim that it provides zero carbon energy, is secure and competitive, and is the only way to “provide large-scale, low-carbon electricity generation” (2012, p.120). In view of the damage inflicted on the industry by low fossil-fuel prices in the 1980s and 1990s, the accidents at …