Response to DTI Energy Consultation
by James Lea, 13 April 2006
The DTI Energy Consultation
On 23 January 2006 the UK government launched an energy consultation entitled "Our Energy Challenge: securing clean, affordable energy for the long term" (www.dti.gov.uk/energy/review/). The government sought the views of the public and of industry on this vital topic.
This article reproduces my response to the questions posed in the consultation document, submitted online via www.dti.gov.uk/energy/en_consult.shtml.
Q1. What more could the government do on the demand or supply side for energy to ensure that the UK's long-term goal of reducing carbon emissions is met? (MAXIMUM 750 WORDS)
The government should actively manage both demand, in order to reduce our need for energy, and supply, in order to provide clean, renewable energy.
On the demand side, we should:
On the supply side, we should:
In conclusion, the government should place less reliance on "technology fixes", and more emphasis on leading the UK population through the process of energy descent, putting in place the necessary behavioural and structural changes.
Q2. 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. (MAXIMUM 750 WORDS)
Peak oil is a serious problem; we face a similar crisis with gas supplies. Rising oil and gas prices indicate that we face a growing worldwide shortage in fossil fuel supplies. There is a parallel danger, that of a mass switch back to coal, a heavily polluting source whose combustion will accelerate anthropogenic climate change. To address peak oil and climate change, we need a rapid widescale return to local renewable energy systems.
To achieve this, the government should:
Q3. 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? (MAXIMUM 750 WORDS)
Nuclear fission power might be attractive, were it not for five key problems which have yet to be solved:
However, there is an alternative to fission power: nuclear fusion. Although not yet viable, nuclear fusion reactors, which harness similar reactions to those in the sun, could provide huge amounts of electrical power, without generating as much radioactive waste produced by fission reactors. I believe the government should increase its financial contributions to nuclear fusion research (but only after implementing renewable solutions). Although unlikely to pay off in the short term, the long term benefits could be enormous.
Q4. Are there particular considerations that should apply to carbon abatement and other low-carbon technologies? (MAXIMUM 750 WORDS)
Carbon sequestration (abatement) represents a poor alternative to a reduction in carbon emissions. Nature has already designed the world's best carbon sequestration technology - trees. We should therefore maximise our woodland and forest cover worldwide by introducing policies mandating sustainable timber systems (such as woodland coppicing).
Furthermore, planning policy should be changed to require significant green spaces to be re-established in towns and cities, and to prevent the sprawl of housing estates over virgin countryside.
Q5. What further steps should be taken towards meeting the government's goals for ensuring that every home is adequately and affordably heated? (MAXIMUM 750 WORDS)
There are many simple and effective steps we could take, including:
Comments are invited on the following issues as described in the text:
i. The long term potential of energy efficiency measures in the transport, residential, business and public sectors, and how best to achieve that potential (MAXIMUM 750 WORDS)
Energy efficiency measures could hugely reduce our requirements for energy in all sectors of the economy. However, the most difficult area to tackle will be our high demand for personal motor transport. The so-called 'hydrogen economy' does not offer a solution, as vast quantities of electricity will be needed to produce the hydrogen fuel.
The government must therefore reduce the need for private motor transport. One fundamental cause of excessive travel is the UK's overpriced housing market, which forces many people to commute large distances between affordable accommodation and their workplaces.
ii. Implications in the medium and long term for the transmission and distribution networks of significant new build in gas and electricity generation infrastructure (MAXIMUM 750 WORDS)
As discussed above, we should not be building large scale centralised energy distribution networks. Our infrastructure development efforts should be focused at the local and regional level, supporting microgeneration projects.
iii. Opportunities for more joint working with other countries on our energy policy goals (MAXIMUM 750 WORDS)
Energy policy goals should remain within the state, simply because on the grounds of sustainability countries should source their energy supplies from within their own borders. By all means work with other countries where it advances our own goals. However, we do not need more joint research: we need implementation!
iv. Potential measures to help bring forward technologies to replace fossil fuels in transport and heat generation in the medium and long term (MAXIMUM 750 WORDS)
Again, a range of measures will enable the replacement of fossil fuels:
End of consultation questionnaire
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-- (c) James Lea, www.GreenLiving.co.uk, 2005 - 2007 --