The UK can meet its decarbonisation targets and successfully go green if the government delivers strong policies, according to a cautious report from the National Grid that acknowledges the uncertainty over our energy future.
The report presents four scenarios, each providing very different visions of the UK’s future, but does not comment on which is the most likely to be realised.
“It’s really important that we have an open and transparent discussion about where we get our energy from and how we use it,” said Richard Smith, head of energy strategy and policy at the National Grid.
“Our future energy scenarios document aims to help that dialogue, presenting a range of holistic, plausible and credible scenarios that can help our customers and stakeholders make informed decisions.”
It describes “Gone Green” and “Slow Progression” scenarios, the first explaining how the UK could comfortably meet its green targets and the latter detailing how slower progress may be made.
The Gone Green scenario sees a strong economy and political commitment to tough environmental regulations supporting investment in low-carbon technologies.
In this case, “Increases in energy demand due to growth in the economy and spending are offset by energy-efficiency improvements in all sectors,” the report predicts.
Similarly, micro-generation from small-scale renewable energy installations would ease the net demand on electricity networks.
National greenhouse gas emissions would be cut by around 60% by 2035, while renewables would supply 32% of energy demand. The UK would meet both its current emissions and renewable energy targets for 2020 and the upcoming EU targets for 2030
The slow progression scenario plays out in a similar way, but some targets would be missed due to weaker economic growth.
A third possibility, the “Low Carbon Life” scenario, explains how policymakers may remain committed to decarbonisation in the long-term but policies remain “volatile” in the short term.
In this scenario the Grid says that targets could still be met, as the rise of renewables would continue, especially at a local level. However, this would be a world of “low sustainability”.
The fourth, “No Progression”, warns how inconsistent policies could stifle energy investment and technological innovation, causing the UK to miss its climate targets and fail to introduce new ones.
Significantly, the report envisages that shale gas obtained domestically through fracking – a method unpopular with much of the population – will play an important role in even the greenest of the four scenarios.
While shale gas is a fossil fuel, it is less carbon intensive than others, such as coal.
The Grid says that, in the Low Carbon Life scenario, more than 40% of the nation’s gas demand could be met by shale extracted from British earth by 2035.
Alternatively, if no investment is made into domestic production and renewables are also neglected, the report warns that the UK would need to import as much as 90% of its gas. This would leave the country dependent on nations such as Russia and Norway.
Another technology that could have an important impact is domestic heat-pumps – devices that transfer heat from the air or ground outside into a home, thereby generating substantial energy savings.
Almost six million homes could get their heat from domestic heat-pumps by 2030, the report suggests, if the technology is supported by government incentives.
The comprehensive report was compiled through collaboration with over 180 organisations. It is, as the Grid’s director of UK market operation Cordi O’Hara explains, is “not just National Grid’s view of the world”.
“Our future energy scenarios, together with the momentum afforded by electricity market reform, should give us much greater confidence in what the future looks like in the medium to long-term,” she said.
“As a nation, we will only be able to make the tough decisions that lie ahead if we can do so with confidence. We all need to think more deeply about our attitudes and behaviours towards energy use, and how much we’re prepared to change as a society if we are to meet the energy challenge.”
Photo: Ewan Munro via Flickr
7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption
Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.
This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?
Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.
New Technologies to Watch
These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:
- Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
- Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
- New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
- Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
- Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
- The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
- Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.
Making the Investment
All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.
Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis
Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.
Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?”
Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.
Tip #1: Focus & Determination
Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.
Tip #2: Minimize Spending
One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!
Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal
You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.
Investing in Clean Energy
One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.
With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.
The Future of Green Biz
As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.
Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.
In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!
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