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Manchester Business School invites guest speakers of interest.  Tonight, Angela Knight Chief Exec of Energy UK is talking on the future of the UK energy market.

We all know how important cheap and available energy is, but it is taken for granted.  My penny-dropping moment was at Innovate 2013 in London earlier this year, where it was plainly apparent that the entire energy capture/generation, storage and distribution systems needs innovators to deliver very real solutions, and quickly.

2012 UK Electricity Generation by Fuel

2012 UK Electricity Generation by Fuel

How to achieve 80% reduction in Carbon by 2050 from 1990 levels?

As far as electricity generation is concerned, the required target of renewables across the entire economy requires 30% of electricity to be generated from renewables by 2020 – that’s only six and a half years away…

Read on, from tonight’s talk…

Angela started by describing the size of the challenge and early attempts to place a price on Carbon and to incentivize carbon capture and storage (CCS).  There have been several CCS projects that have tried and failed to gain traction in the UK. Further incentives are needed to boost capital spending.

I was reminded of  the recent sustainability summit sponsored by Accenture;  the German government has walked away from new nuclear to deliver a renewable economy by 2020.  This brings about an important point about target setting;  if your real (and far larger) challenge is to decarbonize to 1990 levels by 2050, you would never start by switch off you nuclear fleet with such abandon…

For renewables, the major challenge of “what do you do when the wind doesn’t blow?” has not been solved to the standard needed of a national electricity system requires.  Stand-by capacity and storage solutions are needed.

To create Incentives, the GOV has set in place a C price floor to emissions trading (this deals with the currently very low price of C). And to encourage new nuclear, renewables and CCS where new rules exist to only allow new coal unless provided there is carbon capture and storage.

From a consumer point of view, their priorities, in order are; affordability, security of supply and decarbonisation.

Looking into the future, it is likely there will pressure on the system generation and supply systems, as older, more C intensive coal capability comes off-line.  My guess is the political willpower will remain “off” and the UK will come very close to a lights out situation.  Also, I see evidence for this in the inability of government and new nuclear operators to come to agreement about price in time to do anything about it…  Don’t throw away your candles, yet.

Rob Munro

So, what do you think ?

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