The real issue facing the United Kingdom in next month’s general election is not whether to choose Brexit, to stay in the European Union or leave it, a prominent lawyer says, because the climate “is the election priority” for the UK. With Britain due to host the November 2020 United Nations climate talks, she told a London conference, it is vital that the new government elected on 12 December takes the lead by enacting policies to tackle the climate emergency. Farhana Yamin, an international climate change lawyer, said that currently the world was failing to tackle the climate and ecological disaster facing the planet. The UK posed as a climate leader but was “way, way behind” what was needed and did not have the policies in place to reach its own target of net zero emissions by 2050.
Climate News Network 7th Nov 2019 read more »
Dave Elliott: At this year’s Labour party conference in October, a motion was adopted that called on the party to work towards “a path to net zero carbon emissions by 2030”. Labour then asked a group of independent energy-industry experts to identify a pathway to decarbonize the UK energy system by 2030. The resulting report, which was published in late October, is very detailed and quite radical. It identifies four overarching goals to transform the UK’s energy supply and use: reducing energy waste in buildings and industry; decarbonizing heat; boosting renewable and low carbon electricity generation; and balancing the UK’s supply & demand. Thirty recommendations were made to meet those goals. They include installing eight million heat pumps as well as upgrading every home in the UK with energy-saving measures such as insulation and double glazing but focusing first on damp homes and areas with fuel poverty. The report also calls for the installation of 7000 off-shore and 2000 on-shore wind turbines as well as solar panels that would cover an area of 22 000 football pitches, so tripling the UK’s current solar capacity. The plan is a maximalist programme of renewable expansion and energy efficiency upgrades in all sectors. On the demand side, it aims to reduce the need for energy across the UK by a minimum of 20% for heat and a minimum of 11% for electricity, relative to current levels. On the supply side, offshore wind would be supplying 172 TWh by 2030 while onshore wind would contribute 69 TWh and photovoltaic solar being 37 TWh. But there is also 63 TWh from nuclear — with 9 GW assumed to be in place by 2030 — as well as 32 TWh from gas with 40GW of power plants in use. For the longer term, there would be significant investment in research and development for marine energy — up to 3GW of tidal — and renewable or low-carbon hydrogen for heating and energy storage along with carbon capture and storage for some heavy industries (2.5GW). The aim is that by the late 2020s “these emerging technologies can be deployed, alongside current technologies such as nuclear, to the appropriate scale”. That part could be a hint of support for small modular nuclear to keep nuclear at its current level and also for fossil-gas steam methane reformation for hydrogen production. But the report also mentions the electrolysis “power to gas” route: using green power to make hydrogen. Interestingly, it sees solar providing about 6% of UK heating with biomass contributing 5%. Yet it recommends not expanding solid biomass use for large-scale electricity generation. So, no more DRAX-type imported wood pellet plants. The report assumes that in its 90% low-carbon mix for 2030 nuclear capacity stays at the current level. But it also says it is “entirely possible to meet the 90% target without any new nuclear capacity”, though that would be “more challenging” due to the loss of low-carbon base-load and increased use of variable power. So, the report notes, more grid balancing would be needed via storage, interconnection, demand management or fossil fuel back-up. Though it adds, “the system will also benefit from cheaper generation technology such as wind & solar”. The retention of nuclear is controversial. For example, far from helping to balance variable renewables, having nuclear on the grid may make the balancing problem harder to deal with since it is inflexible.
Physics World 7th Nov 2019 read more »