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First Annual Eco Plan for UK

Page history last edited by Malcolm 10 years ago

Future Statements of Good Intent


In the first ever Annual Energy Statement, 32 actions of energy and climate change policy, agreed upon by the coalition government have been detailed. The actions are vital in enabling a rapid transformation of the UK energy system and economy, and are hoped "to introduce the transparency, certainty and long-termism needed to unlock investment", says Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne.

The actions will enable the UK to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions whilst improving energy security, availability and affordability. With fossil fuels becoming increasingly scarce, emission free energy is a must, as it is if we are to meet our 2050 carbon reduction target of an 80% decrease on 1990 levels.

The statement considers four key areas, setting out actions and time frames for decisions in each:

  • Saving energy through the Green Deal and supporting vulnerable consumers
  • Delivering secure energy on the way to a low carbon energy future
  • Managing our energy legacy responsibly and cost-effectively
  • Driving ambitious action on climate change at home and abroad

The statement claims that the government is committed to driving ambitious actions on climate change both at home and abroad. Many of the actions are renewable focused, with the government promising to publish a delivery plan to drive faster deployment to 2020 and requesting further advice from the Committee on Climate Change on the scope for a more ambitious target for renewables.

In the meantime, our target of 15% of energy from renewables by 2020 may not rely solely on the well known sources such as solar, wind, wave and tidal. A range of novel renewable energy generation technologies have recently been reported. All require additional research and development and some are many years from fruition.

Novel renewables

Investigations are taking place at the Heriot-Watt University to establish if urine could be used as a renewable source of energy within fuel cells. The naturally produced substance could offer a low cost, non-toxic alternative to some of the more dangerous chemicals currently used. An additional application could be in the treatment of waste water, with electricity being generated as a by-product. The source could be human or animal and is by no means in short supply.

In Missouri, work is underway to bridge the gap between biotechnology and nanotechnology with the production of biofuel-cells. It is hoped that in the future, devices which currently rely on battery power could run on sugar or fat based fuels. The idea works through the integration of live mitochondria into an electronic device. Enzymes will be used to break down and rebuild fuel molecules such as methanol or glucose, releasing electrons during the process. These would be correlated to become electricity.

The prize for most magical renewable could go to researchers in Brazil who are looking at the possibility of producing electricity, quite literally from air. The atmospheric affect, which is the origin of thunderstorms, can be exploited to gather electric charge from humid air. Seemingly overlooked until now, the effect is understood to be incredibly small but may have potential as a renewable energy source in more humid regions of the world such as the tropics; not ideal for the typical UK climate.

A more realistic option for the UK renewables sector may be an increase in the amount of energy generated through anaerobic digestion of biodegradable waste. An added benefit of this would be the reduction in the volume of waste going to landfill. The Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, pointed out that we should not be sending any waste to landfill that could be used to generate energy and that a zero waste economy makes both economical and environmental sense. However there are fears that local communities may take a "not in my backyard" stance to the factory like incinerators and processing plants. As with the most well intended ideas, one of the hurdles may be public perception.

Within the Annual Energy Statement, the government declare that they are taking immediate action to exploit the potential of energy from waste and are due to jointly publish an action plan with industry on how to deliver increasing levels of energy from waste through anaerobic digestion. At the same time, is has pledged to provide support to local communities and authorities who wish to develop local renewable energy solutions. It may be that with a little government assistance, communities could feel empowered to make informed decisions about the origin of their energy, moving the UK towards its 2020 renewables target.

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