Our Quarterly Rant: The fate of UK energy supply

Coal power generation accounts for about 20% of our total requirement. The UK has committed to remove coal from our mix of power sources by the mid-2020s. So what will fill the gap?
In the right conditions; power from wind, solar and hydroelectric generate nearly 20% of the UK’s requirement with corresponding reduction of ‘carbon intensity’ of our electricity supply. By their nature, these sources rely on the weather – and so are intermittent and require a backup of some kind. Although there is plenty of new wind power to come, we sit shamefully toward the bottom of the league table for renewable energy deployment. With the painfully slow progress of new nuclear and gas power construction, a major ‘energy gap’ looms when coal and ageing nuclear generators go off-line within 10 years.

Our DECC Minister had hardly stepped off the plane from the Paris climate conference before she announced an end to onshore wind development, huge cuts to solar, scrapping of carbon capture research and cessation of sustainability measures. In the same breath she announced enhanced support for oil and gas producers – and even subsidies for diesel power generation! DECC are saying one thing in public and moving 180° from this direction in reality.
It seems that coal power will be replaced by gas derived from dwindling domestic resources, imports – and shale gas. This will allow DECC to claim a reduction of CO2 output, albeit through replacing one fossil fuel with another. The amount of economically producible shale gas in the UK is entirely unproven and highly unlikely to make more than a fleeting difference to our strategic gas resources.

Nuclear power, a British invention, must be a major part of our future (zero carbon) power supply. We are financially guaranteeing the Chinese and French to design, build and operate new reactors. Do we really know enough about the Chinese economy, or our relationship with the Chinese state in 10 years, let alone 50 years, for this to be a safe, rational solution? Why we cannot trust British engineers to provide nuclear power, given the same degree of financial backing, is quite beyond me.
The potential for domestically engineered tidal power is untapped – and enormous. We live on a windy island in a large ocean, so tidal energy is always available and is zero carbon, secure, predictable, can provide thousands of UK jobs and has no waste product. Why are we not building them by the dozen?

A criticism of renewable heat and power technologies is their need for subsidy to incentivise uptake. It is not widely known, and certainly not broadcast by government, that nuclear and fossil fuel technologies are subsidised to a higher degree than renewables ever could be. In fact, just this week the government have granted £250M to the oil industry in Scotland to prop it up while oil prices are low. (the oil industry won’t pay this back when prices rebound – so why is the tax payer baling out oil companies?!).
The November budget announced (quietly) that the renewable heat incentive (RHI) would continue to be funded up to 2021 – although with a cut of up to 40%. This at least gives renewable heat providers a degree of stability – and we are already seeing an increase in demand for ground source heat pumps.

The ‘anti-renewable’ stance and continued delay of nuclear construction puts at risk our ability to generate our own power. We should not be in this position. We have all the engineers and natural resources we need to provide our own sustainable heat and power.

The Winners of the Carbon Zero Consulting Renewable Energy Implementation Award

Our winners for the Carbon Zero Consulting Renewable Energy Implementation Awards, held as part of The Drinks Business‘ 2015 Green Awards at the Ivy in London on the 21st of April.

Green Awards 2015_HEL5309John Findlay of Carbon Zero Consulting with the winner of the 2015 Renewable Energy Implementation prize. Torres witnessed a change in climate, and vine growing patterns, and acted upon it in a very rounded way to install renewable heating and power systems across the business internationally.


Green Awards 2015_HEL5307John Findlay of Carbon Zero Consulting presenting the runner-up prize for Renewable Energy Implementation. Jacksons have put a huge effort into installation of some major solar PV arrays in California including innovative power storage systems to make use of PV power at night time.


Green Awards 2015_HEL5304John Findlay of Carbon Zero Consulting presenting the special commendation prize for Renewable Energy Implementation. Principi di Porcia have shown great foresight in applying an array of renewable energy technologies to their vine growing and farming activities including solar PV, solar thermal, Biomass and hydro-electricity.


Carbon Zero crown Torres Winery with prestigious international drinks award

Carbon Zero Consulting is delighted to announce that as sponsor of The Renewable Energy Implementation Award it has today crowned Bodegas Torres as a worthy winner of this newly created category of The Drinks Business Green Awards 2015 at The Ivy in London.

The Renewable Energy Implementation Award, sponsored by Carbon Zero Consulting, were seeking submissions from drinks companies who could firstly, demonstrate a strong reduction in carbon emissions and use of fossil fuels and secondly, show adoption of renewable technologies to provide alternative sources of heat, power and cooling.

John Findlay MSc CEng, Managing Director of Carbon Zero Consulting, who formed part of the independent panel of sustainability and drinks industry experts responsible for judging, was delighted by this year’s quality of entries. John was particularly impressed by the overall dedication Bodegas Torres showed to reducing their carbon emissions and adopting a number of different methods to achieve this.

John Findlay, Managing Director, Carbon Zero Consulting says, “We’re thrilled to have been involved with this year’s Drinks Business Green Awards and delighted to have our own category. The level of entries was high and overall it was pleasing to note that implementation of alternative sources of heat, cooling and power are being adopted by some companies in the drinks sector. However, we felt that Bodegas Torres is a particularly worthy winner due to the fact that they had not only witnessed a change in climate, but acted upon it in a very rounded way to install renewable heating and power systems across the business internationally. One point which deserves special mention, is their innovative approach of using vine clippings and waste to run a biomass boiler resulting in a 85% reduction in their gas consumption at Pacs de Penedes.

Mr Findlay continues, “With the evidence for climate change and its potentially devastating consequences continuing to build, there is a growing need to bring renewable technologies, such as Ground Source Heating and Cooling to the table and to recognise companies in the drinks industry that are already addressing these issues. We are delighted to have supported this cause and call for more companies to consider alternative forms of renewable energies to sustain their businesses in the long term.”

The Drinks Business Green Awards 2015 is the world’s largest programme to raise awareness of green issues in the drinks trade and recognise and reward those who are leading the way in sustainability and environmental performance.

Carbon Zero Consulting was founded in 2007 by John Findlay and is an independent and specialist renewable energy and water management consultancy offering high quality professional services to a variety of businesses and industry sectors nationwide. The company’s new website, www.carbonzeroco.com, provides a valuable source of information relating to renewable energy solutions including ground source heating and cooling technologies for which Carbon Zero Consulting is a leading provider throughout the UK.

Please call on 0844 855 0115 or johnfindlay@carbonzeroco.com for a comprehensive discussion on how we may be able to meet your needs.