Memorandum submitted by Professor Peter
F Smith (U02)
POLICIES TO ACCELERATE THE PROCESS OF REDUCING
CO2 EMISSIONS FROM FOSSIL FUELS
On the demand side, there should be a radically
new strategy for reducing CO2 due to buildings and
transport with the introduction of carbon budgets. On the supply
side the UK is well down the EU league table as regards installation
of renewable energy technologies. Britain is especially fortunate
in having extensive marine resources offering multi-gigawatt power.
However, a strictly market approach will not deliver long life,
high energy density but high capital cost technologies. Research
into renewable technologies is considerably underfunded compared
with other EU states. The potential market opportunities for low
to zero carbon technologies should persuade the Government to
invest more ambitiously in R & D in this area. As regards
transport, increased subsidies should be offered on hybrid vehicles
as the range of such models is enlarged. Provision of incentives
for the production of biofuels and the conversion of existing
vehicles to these fuels should be a priority matter to reduce
low level pollution and CO2 emissions. In terms of
global policy, there should be an emphasis on providing access
to off-grid electricity to least developed countries.
Buildings are still indirectly responsible for
a major share of the UK's CO2 emissions. Research should
be commissioned into the logistics of replacing Part L of the
Building Regulations with a carbon budget system for all buildings.
This would have the advantage of bringing all buildings into the
carbon reduction process whilst avoiding the social penalties
of significantly higher energy prices. It would also pave the
way for a system of carbon trading with a premium on the base
price of carbon credits.
1.1 The system could also be applied to
vehicles (see below).
In terms of the expansion of renewable energy
the UK has no cause for complacency. This is shown by the European
Environment Agency 2004 in a comparison between 25 EU states of
their commitment to renewable energy. The UK is fourth from bottom
of states that rise above the base line (Figure 1).
2.1 There is need for vigorous exploitation
of the natural assets enjoyed by the UK for the production of
renewable electricity. The outstanding resource is the marine
environment. A steep increase in the installation of renewable
technologies will not be achieved if reliance is placed on market
forces, especially for long life, low running cost by high capital
cost technologies that deliver gigawatt power like tidal energy.
It is not enough for the Government to fund demonstration schemes
and then rely on the private sector to run with them. Marine resources
offer the greatest opportunity for base load power generation.
3. MARINE ENERGY
Estuary tidal power:
In 1994 the Government decided to abandon further
research into tidal barrages for reasons ranging from the economic
to the ecological. Since then the position has changed. Rivers
are much less polluted and the risk of catastrophic flooding in
the next decades has risen appreciably making it appropriate to
reappraise the position.
3.1 Tidal barrages: are appropriate where
flood protection is a major factor for example for the Thames
Gateway development Figure 2. A barrage in this position could
probably meet the electricity needs of the projected urban expansion
of London especially if associated with tidal pounds to provide
power during slack tidal phases.
3.2 Tidal fence: technology is an alternative
to barrages. Vertical Darrieus rotors are supported within an
open concrete structure Figure 3. The system has a high energy
density without causing problems for the inter-tidal zones. It
is appropriate for estuaries, bays and channels, eg Severn estuary,
Morecambe Bay, Pentland Firth.
3.3 Tidal currents: The UK has over 40 coastal
sites appropriate for capturing tidal stream energy from underwater
horizontal axis turbines (tidal mills). We should progress from
demonstration schemes to full scale exploitation.
3.4 Tidal impoundment: This is a proven
technology as demonstrated by the project off the coast of North
Wales with a capacity of 432MW. There are many suitable sites
for this relatively low cost, reliable and unobtrusive form of
3.5 Wave power: The "limpet" project
on the Isle of Islay has proved the effectiveness of coastal oscillating
water column technology. Sites should be investigated with a view
to expanding this moderate cost technology.
3.5.1 The "Pelamis" or "power
snake" offshore technology has considerable potential, especially
in multiple arrays as wave energy farms.
3.5.2 The wave elevator system or "Tapchan"
as demonstrated in Norway consists of a narrowing channel which
amplifies wave height lifting sea water about 4m into a reservoir.
It then has sufficient height to operate as a conventional hydro-electric
plant, in this case generating 370 kW. There could be suitable
sites in Scotland and the South West.
3.6 Offshore wind: If wind is to make a
significant contribution to renewable energy targets the focus
should be on offshore machines because of their better load factor
than land based turbines and because they circumvent the delays
associated with the planning process.
4. OTHER RENEWABLES
The government should set ambitious targets
for energy from:
4.1 Rapid rotation crops for use in former
coal fired power stations and production of biogas.
4.2 Biogas from waste including anaerobic
conversion of sewage and farm slurry.
4.3 Energy crops for ethanol and biodiesel.
4.4 Photovoltaics (PVs): Compared with some
other EU countries and Japan the UK has a poor record in exploiting
solar power. This is because PVs are uneconomic in the current
market situation. Solar energy has the greatest potential of all
renewables and much greater research funding should be directed
towards this technology.
4.4.1 The lesson from Germany is that subsidies
are necessary to pump prime the market and thereby to gain from
economies of scale. The German Photovoltaic Preliminary Act 2004
paved the way for the revised Renewable Energy Act which provides
for a feed-in tariff of around 50 Eurocents per kWh for roof and
façade PVs on domestic as well as commercial properties.
The anticipated installed capacity up to the end of 2004 is 580MW.
German manufacturers cannot keep pace with demand which is why
the Welsh PV plant is exporting almost all its capacity to Germany.
4.4.2 The first step to boost the UK market
would be to provide net metering for domestic/small scale PV installations
and micro-wind with matching feed-in and buy-in rates.
4.5 There will be serious implications for
the grid when over 20% of electricity comes from distributed and
small-scale generation. Planning for this outcome should now be
well under way.
Much of this gas still escapes into the atmosphere.
Methane is 27 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2
therefore it is important to burn it for energy rather than let
it escape to the air.
6. SOLAR THERMAL
The UK is still only on the threshold of exploiting
this resource as a means of avoiding CO2 emissions.
It can be used for either diurnal or seasonal storage of warmth.
In 1999 the EU Soltherm Europe Initiative was launched with the
aim of installing 15 million m2 of solar thermal collectors by
6.1 Germany responded with its Solarthermie
2,000 research project with programmes like the housing project
at Friedrichshafn with 5,600m2 solar collectors on the roofs of
eight apartment blocks. A 12,000m3 underground heat store collects
summer warmth for distribution in winter. This amounts to 1,915
MWh/yr. A scheme at Neckarsulm has a collector area of 27,000m2
to meet a heating demand of 1,663MWh/yr.
7. HEAT PUMPS
At present ground source heat pumps are marginal
in terms of cost effectiveness. However, efforts are underway
to increase their coefficience of performance (COP) from three
to five or six. Some claim eight will be possible. This will make
them attractive for producing space heating with the added benefit
or providing cooling in summer.
Developments in the efficiency of the Stirling
engine have made micro-CHP a viable proposition. Particularly
hopes rest on the Microgen system in which electricity is produced
within a sealed Stirling engine. Assuming a manufacturer can be
found to meet the exacting tolerances it should be on the market
in 2005 and be competitive on cost with conventional systems with
the bonus of producing 1KW of electricity. The attraction of this
system will probably depend on the availability of net metering.
Whilst efforts to persuade motorists to revert
to public transport will continue, the probability is that the
volume of vehicles will continue to increase even if the fuel
price escalator is reinstated. Therefore most effort should be
concentrated on persuading car owners to opt for hybrid or alternative
fuel vehicles. To do so it will be necessary to provide capital
grants to make up the difference between hybrid and conventional
vehicles as well as concessions on excise duty. At present the
payback time for the price difference is six to seven years assuming
24,000km per year. Honda and Toyota are planning to expand their
ranges and Ford, Nissan and General Motors will have hybrids on
the market in the near future.
9.1 Biofuels: probably hold out the best
hope for reducing CO2 and other pollutant emissions
in this sector for the medium term future.
9.2 Ethanol is the most widely used biofuel.
It is mainly fermented from corn, wheat or barley but also from
biomass waste and rapid rotation poplars. It can reduce greenhouse
gas emissions in vehicles by 35-46%.
9.2.1 A 10% ethanol blended fuel is approved
by all car manufacturers marketing in the US. Manufacturers are
working to produce more flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) that are
able to use E-85 fuel, that is a blend of 85% ethanol and 15%
petrol. There are currently over one million FFVs in the US and
main manufacturers are increasingly offering FFVs as standard
9.2.2 E-diesel is being developed containing
15% ethanol which reduced particulate emissions by up to 30%.
It also reduces sulphur content.
9.2.3 An important feature of ethanol is
that it is easily reformed to hydrogen in a fuel cell. It offers
the prospect of facilitating the uptake of fuel cell vehicles
in the short to medium term, either reformed in the vehicle or
in garages which will offer pure hydrogen at the pumps. The fuel
cell offers efficiencies of 40 to 50% compared with the 18% of
the average internal combustion engine.
9.3 Biodiesel:This fuel is refined from
soybean, hemp, rape, vegetable oil and animal fat. Fuel grade
biodiesel conforms to strict industry standards and can be used
as a replacement for conventional diesel or in any proportion.
It reduces CO2 emissions by 78% compared with fossil
diesel (US Dept of Energy) due to the closed carbon cycle. Emissions
harmful to health are dramatically reduced with biodiesel. Its
ultimate promise is for "clean" HGVs and locomotives.
9.4 In the light of these facts the Government
needs to do everything possible to encourage the adoption of alternative
fuels and the modification of existing vehicles where necessary.
One way to do this would be to apply the carbon budget principle
to vehicles with year on year reductions in the carbon allowance.
A smart card loaded with carbon credits would be issued with the
tax disc. Once the allowance was exhausted the only option would
be to purchase carbon credits at a punitive price.
The UK is well down the league table terms of
investment in renewables research.
10.1 Increased investment is required to
reduce the cost and raise the efficiency of various fuel cells
appropriate to different uses especially domestic scale fuel cells
10.2 It is a matter if priority to raise
the efficiency and reduce the cost of PVs. For example, support
research into solar cells which replace the liquid electrolyte
with an organic solid and processes that mimic photosynthesis
10.3 To widen the scope for building integrated
PVs it is important to accelerate the development of flexible
sheet and transparent PVs which will greatly widen the range of
10.4 A range of benefits will accrue from
the scaling-up of the microbial fuel cell to produce electricity
from human waste. This opens up the possibility of extensive electricity
production from sewage works.
The UK should be a full participant in the race
to find low energy methods of producing hydrogen so as to be well
placed to exploit the market opportunities at the time when hydrogen
will be the principal energy carrier for transport. These include:
11.1 Alternatives to electrolysis for the
production of hydrogen need to be investigated eg:
the hydrogen generator fuel cell producing carbon
dioxide and hydrogen from ethanol and water;
11.1.1 Solar hydrogen using light harvesting
ceramics to split water to produce hydrogen (University of New
11.1.2 Microbial activity that releases
hydrogen from organic compounds such as biomass waste.
11.1.3 Regenerative fuel cells.
The viability of hydrogen for vehicles and static
fuel cells will depend on the development of safe storage systems.
Current developments include:
12.1 Metal hydrides with the best storage
to weight ratio.
12.2 Capillary storage in super-activated
12.3 Carbon nano-tubes.
The intermittent nature of supply from renewables
increases the pressure to find safe, high capacity methods of
13.1 There is still considerable scope for
improvements in battery technology.
13.2 The ultimate storage technology is
from high temperature super-conductivity. According to the Interdisciplinary
Research Centre, Cambridge University, there is the prospect by
2020 of storing massive amounts of electricity in a ring a super-conducting
cables with no power loss.
In the short term air travel should carry a
surcharge to acknowledge the multiple forms of damage it inflicts
on the environment, not least its escalating CO2 emissions.
This would have to be an EU wide initiative. A tax would be levied,
perhaps as landing charges, on nations that would not comply.
14.1 In the longer term it is virtually
inevitable that hydrogen will be the fuel of the future once memories
of the Hindenburg have been erased.
15. THE GLOBAL
One of the global problems that can be tackled
is to provide access to electricity to the two billion worldwide
for whom it is not available. For most this will involve a massive
programme of supplying compact solar energy systems and, to a
lesser extent, micro-hydro equipment. The challenge suggested
by the Electric Power Research Institute in the US is to provide
at least 1,000 kWh per year to everyone in the world by 2050,
by which time the world population could be 9 to 10 billion.
15.1 Also essential will be provision of
energy crops and the means of refining biofuels for powering agricultural
equipment, pumps and generators. As the price of fossil fuels
rise, it will become increasingly out of reach for poorer communities
and therefore an alternative should begin to be put in place immediately.
15.2 These will be important actions towards
realising the Prime Minister's goal of alleviating poverty in
15.3 Finally, it is probably necessary to
accept that no further time and effort should be expended on trying
to achieve closure of the Kyoto process.
19 September 2004