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Energy proficiency: UK must act to reduce carbon emissions

Energy Technologies Institute

3 min read Partner content

Strategy Development Director at the Energy Technologies Institute, Jo Coleman addresses the challenges of increasing energy efficiency in the UK

The UK must spend the next ten years developing and proving a basket of key technologies if it is to significantly reduce its carbon emissions, according to a leading energy expert.

Strategy Development Director at the Energy Technologies Institute, Jo Coleman, calls for a “decade of preparedness,” in order for the country to move to a low carbon energy system.  

Ms Coleman is “confident” that the transition can take place, and that it is necessary to “position us globally,” for meeting future energy demands.
“We don’t want to be on the back foot,” she warns.

The Institute insists that the cost of reducing carbon emissions is affordable and estimates that a 35 year transition would be within 1-2% of GDP in 2050, with potential to achieve the lower end of this range through effective planning.

“It isn’t yet about spending large sums of money,” according to Ms Coleman, who suggests that the following decade should be focussed on developing options, making choices and proving the capabilities of various technologies.

Both Bioenergy and Carbon Capture and Storage have been identified by the Institute as areas that can play a central role in reducing carbon emissions, but both require further development before they are ready for large scale deployment.

The appeal of these technologies lies in part in their potential to deliver negative carbon emissions, effectively removing carbon from the atmosphere.      
If either of these are not part of the UK’s energy mix going forward, the Institute warns, this will double the cost of meeting climate change targets.       
The approach to meeting the targets should be “practical rather than ideological,” Ms Coleman says.

She understands why policy makers tend to favour renewable energy sources but stresses that whilst they “do have a significant role to play… we can’t rely on renewables alone”.  

“We see a significant role for fossil fuels,” she adds, and discourages competitive positioning between different low carbon technologies as “we need to develop renewables, CCS and nuclear  - it is about a balanced and economic mix”.

The Energy Technologies Institute sees the next ten years as an opportunity for the UK to make positive choices in energy investment as it renews infrastructure, encourages new industries and promotes greater efficiency.  

An area that poses particular concern in relation to improving energy efficiency is housing.

Providing low carbon heat on demand for an inefficient housing stock will be increasingly challenging, according to Ms Coleman.  

She advocates “efficiency improvement where it makes economic sense,” but adds that “it isn’t a blanket solution,” suggesting that the solutions needs to be as diverse as the properties.

The Institute warns that the majority of housing stock that will be around in 2050 is already existing, poorly insulated and highly inefficient.   Action needs to be taken to transition our homes to low carbon heating.

Better management of heating could play a part in managing demand, as we currently “don’t control our heat very well,” Ms Coleman says.
“The solution has to be flexible,” she adds.     

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