I was lucky enough to attend the IET President’s Address last month. I usually avoid this type of event because they can be stuffy and the subjects obtuse. This was an exception and Dr Nigel Burton gave rapid run through the UK’s attempted to address climate change and change the UK’s energy mix to reduce carbon emissions.

The presentation is available to download from the IET website – President’s Address – so I won’t repeat the details here, with the exception of the following interesting observations:

  • The UK has beaten its Kyoto commitment to reduce emissions by 12.5% since 1990. However the UNFCCC methodology only includes domestic emissions. Our success has been partially real, mainly because of the “dash-for-gas”. When imports are included our true overall CO2 footprint has risen almost 20% since 1990.  Inappropriate UK policies might achieve our targets – by driving manufacturing offshore!
  • Energy efficiency will only work if policies recognise economics and psychology.
  • Creating the low-carbon economy is probably the biggest challenge facing society in the UK and globally
  • £234bn of new investment in electricity and gas infrastructure would be required to meet the UK’s energy goals in the period to 2025 and the Climate Change Act Impact Assessment which estimated the total costs of meeting the 2050 targets as being between £324–404bn.

The presentation provides a (relatively) objective view of the problem and highlights the difficulty of providing a solution without nuclear generation. It also emphasises the need for coherent government policies so that some subsidies are channeled into technology that have the biggest impact. Well worth reading if you want a comprehensive overview of the whole energy consumption/reduction issue.