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20 questions with… Mark Powell

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Mark Powell answers 20 questions on life, sustainability and everything.

Powell, who leads the power and utilities practice at consulting firm AT Kearney will be joining the Sustainable September Energy Debate on September 16 as part of Blue & Green Tomorrow’s month-long sustainability event.

He will debate in favour of the motion of whether gas and nuclear power are more cost-effective in reducing carbon emissions in the short-term than renewable energy. Tickets to the event are available here.

We want the world to be as blue and green tomorrow as it was yesterday. What’s your mission?

To make sure that costs are considered as part of the sustainability debate – nothing will ever be sustainable if costs and efficiency are not considered as a vital part of the process.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A racing driver.

How would your friends describe you?

Outgoing, friendly, positive, won’t sit still!

What was your ‘road to Damascus moment’ in terms of sustainability?

Two moments – 1. When I discovered that my 85-year-old father was not using his heating because of the rising cost of energy and 2. When I received a death threat from one of the more extreme renewables ‘activists’ after I pointed out that you could hit a carbon target much more cost effectively without a massive investment in certain types of renewables.

Who or what inspires you?

Positive people who want to challenge conventional wisdom and change things and innovate.

What really grinds your gears?

Negative people and people who refuse to see the need to change and innovate.

Describe your perfect day.

Playing with my little boy followed by a nice lunch with friends or family at a nice country pub.

What do you see when you look out your window at home?

Trees and fields and lots of opportunities

What do you like spending your money on?

I have a passion for cars and motor racing – not very sustainable to many I grant you.

What’s your favourite holiday destination?

Italy.

What’s your favourite book?

The Secret Ministry of Agg and Fish – My Life in Churchill’s School for Spies – about the SOE during WW2.

What’s your favourite film?

James Bond, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones.

You’re made prime minister. What’s the first thing you do?

Make sure a government can only be in power for one term so they forget anything about getting re-elected and focus on doing the right things that need to be done rather than worrying about votes all the time.  Oh, and I would also scrap most of the quangos!

If you were stuck on a desert island, which famous person would you like to be stuck with and why?

Winston Churchill.  He had such an amazing and interesting life and four different and successful careers.  He would keep me entertained and engaged for years.  You never said the person had to still be living.

What was the best piece of advice you have ever been given? And the worst?

Best was to always be yourself and not try to be what others want you to be.  The worst advice was to focus on doing the job your were hired to do rather than doing the job you think should be done.

What would you like to be doing five years from now?

Writing and teaching and spending more time with my family.

What’s your biggest regret?

Not having children sooner.

What one thing would you encourage readers to do to make their life more sustainable?

Don’t do things that others tell you to do but think things through and make sure that it really makes sense – for example a Toyota Prius actually has a higher total life carbon footprint than an Aston Martin V8 and so is actually less sustainable!

What’s the one idea that you think could change the world for the better?

The constant application of common sense!

What’s your favourite quote?

It’s never too late to be what you might have been” – George Eliot

Further Reading:

Leggett, Harder and Powell confirmed for Sustainable September energy debate

Tickets on sale for Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Sustainable September events

Siemens Crystal to host Sustainable September Energy debate

Introducing: Sustainable September

20 questions with… Jeremy Leggett

Energy

Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis

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Energy Investments
Shutterstock / By Sergey Nivens | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/nivens

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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Energy

What Should We Make of The Clean Growth Strategy?

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Clean Growth Strategy for green energy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By sdecoret | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/sdecoret

It was hardly surprising the Clean Growth Strategy (CGS) was much anticipated by industry and environmentalists. After all, its publication was pushed back a couple of times. But with the document now in the public domain, and the Government having run a consultation on its content, what ultimately should we make of what’s perhaps one of the most important publications to come out of the Department for Business, Energy and the Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in the past 12 months?

The starting point, inevitably, is to decide what the document is and isn’t. It is, certainly, a lengthy and considered direction-setter – not just for the Government, but for business and industry, and indeed for consumers. While much of the content was favourably received in terms of highlighting ways to ensure clean growth, critics – not unjustifiably – suggested it was long on pages but short on detailed and finite policy commitments, accompanied by clear timeframes for action.

A Strategy, Instead of a Plan

But should we really be surprised? The answer, in all honesty, is probably not really. BEIS ministers had made no secret of the fact they would be publishing a ‘strategy’ as opposed to a ‘plan,’ and that gave every indication the CGS would set a direction of travel and be largely aspirational. The Government had consulted on its content, and will likely respond to the consultation during the course of 2018. And that’s when we might see more defined policy commitments and timeframes from action.

The second criticism one might level at the CGS is that indicated the use of ‘flexibilities’ to achieve targets set in the carbon budgets – essentially using past results to offset more recent failings to keep pace with emissions targets. Claire Perry has since appeared in front of the BEIS Select Committee and insisted she would be personally disappointed if the UK used flexibilities to fill the shortfall in meeting the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, but this is difficult ground for the Government. The Committee on Climate Change was critical of the proposed use of efficiencies, which would somewhat undermine ministers’ good intentions and commitment to clean growth – particularly set against November’s Budget, in which the Chancellor maintained the current carbon price floor (potentially giving a reprieve to coal) and introduced tax changes favourable to North Sea oil producers.

A 12 Month Green Energy Initiative with Real Teeth

But, there is much to appreciate and commend about the CGS. It fits into a 12-month narrative for BEIS ministers, in which they have clearly shown a commitment to clean growth, improving energy efficiency and cutting carbon emissions. Those 12 months have seen the launch of the Industrial Strategy – firstly in Green Paper form, which led to the launch of the Faraday Challenge, and then a White Paper in which clean growth was considered a ‘grand challenge’ for government. Throughout these publications – and indeed again with the CGS – the Government has shown itself to be an advocate of smart systems and demand response, including the development of battery technology.

Electrical Storage Development at Center of Broader Green Energy Push

While the Faraday Challenge is primarily focused on the development of batteries to support the proliferation of electric vehicles (which will support cuts to carbon emissions), it will also drive down technology costs, supporting the deployment of small and utility-scale storage that will fully harness the capability of renewables. Solar and wind made record contributions to UK electricity generation in 2017, and the development of storage capacity will help both reduce consumer costs and support decarbonisation.

The other thing the CGS showed us it that the Government is happy to be a disrupter in the energy market. The headline from the publication was the plans for legislation to empower Ofgem to cap the costs of Standard Variable Tariffs. This had been an aspiration of ministers for months, and there’s little doubt that driving down costs for consumers will be a trend within BEIS policy throughout 2018.

But the Government also seems happy to support disruption in the renewables market, as evidenced by the commitment (in the CGS) to more than half a billion pounds of investment in Pot 2 of Contracts for Difference (CfDs) – where the focus will be on emerging rather than established technologies.

This inevitably prompted ire from some within the industry, particularly proponents of solar, which is making an increasing contribution to the UK’s energy mix. But, again, we shouldn’t really be surprised. Since the subsidy cuts of 2015, ministers have given no indication or cause to think there will be public money afforded to solar development. Including solar within the CfD auction would have been a seismic shift in policy. And while ministers’ insistence in subsidy-free solar as the way forward has been shown to be based on a single project, we should expect that as costs continue to be driven down and solar makes record contributions to electricity generation, investment will follow – and there will ultimately be more subsidy-free solar farms, albeit perhaps not in 2018.

Meanwhile, by promoting emerging technologies like remote island wind, the Government appears to be favouring diversification and that it has a range of resources available to meet consumer demand. Perhaps more prescient than the decision to exclude established renewables from the CfD auction is the subsequent confirmation in the budget that Pot 2 of CfDs will be the last commitment of public money to renewable energy before 2025.

In short, we should view the CGS as a step in the right direction, albeit one the Government should be elaborating on in its consultation response. Its publication, coupled with the advancement this year of the Industrial Strategy indicates ministers are committed to the clean growth agenda. The question is now how the aspirations set out in the CGS – including the development of demand response capacity for the grid, and improving the energy efficiency of commercial and residential premises – will be realised.

It’s a step in the right direction. But, inevitably, there’s much more work to do.

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