Examination of Witnesses (Questions 280
WEDNESDAY 12 MARCH 2008
Q280 Mr Cawsey: Allan, could you
tell us something about the role of microgeneration in the London
Plan, this idea that you are going to move to a decentralised
system of more than 50% by 2050?
Mr Jones: The target for decentralised
energy is 25% by 2025 and 53% by 2050. About 17% of that is microgeneration.
We have similar proportions for renewables, waste to energy and
CHP. We see all of those technologies working with each other
trying to get the regulatory system to recognise the laws of physics
and how that trades locally across that. There is an important
example that could be set for other cities and for other regions
as to how you can drive forward what is quite an aggressive target.
The 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2025 is 25 years currently
ahead of the Government's aspirational target and that is simply
because we looked at the 450 parts per million and worked back
what we needed to be doing now to get there. You come up with
some rather different figures. 75% of London's CO2 emissions come
from centralised energy, both gas and electricity. You do not
normally see that figure, it is normally smeared across end use,
but that indicates quite strongly that we need to do much better
than we are currently doing on decentralised energy technologies.
Q281 Dr Blackman-Woods: Can you tell
us what the role of social science research is in renewable energy
development or deployment, and can you point to any recent achievements?
Professor MacKerron: Thank you
for the question. It is fair to say that the Economic and Social
Research Council as well as the UK Energy Research Centre have
been very active in promoting social science research on renewable
energy. If you take a period over the last few years, probably
the largest single contributionand it has come from many
different institutionshas been research on the effectiveness
of the renewables obligation and the ROC system that Des Turner
referred to earlier, and quite detailed work on the possible alternatives,
about which you have already heard today and no doubt on other
occasions, including the feed-in tariff and work that has been
done in places like Cambridge, Warwick, Sussex where I come from,
Surrey and Imperial College. They have all been very influential
in that area. A second area which I think has been active and
has made some impact on policy has been the micro-generation issue
in general. I should just add the qualification to that that micro-generation
of course, although mostly about renewables, is also about efficient
use of fossil fuels too and that while your inquiry is particularly
concerned with generation, we have inevitably been looking at
the heat side of things as well. I think it is fair to say the
social science community has been alerting the policy system to
the fact that there has been major neglect of the heat market
and the importance of heat to climate change targets. I think
that is another contribution that the social science community
has been making in recent times. There are a number of other specific
areas that I will not go into. Perhaps I could make one generic
point and that is that the way in which the social science research
community is aiming to have an impact is not just in the form
of individual research projects; it is in the form of being engaged
in a number of different ways. One of my colleagues is a specialist
adviser to another of the committees of this House. We have a
social scientist, you may observe, sitting behind you and no doubt
advising you at present. Tim Jackson at Surrey is a member of
the Sustainable Development Commission and he has been very influential
in persuading them to work very effectively on issues like tidal
power. I think one of the ways that the social science community
is responding is by an engagement with many of the important institutions
that themselves have some leverage, both in research and policy,
as well as the traditional activity of conducting research projects
in which I think we have also been fairly active.
Q282 Dr Blackman-Woods: Are there
specific challenges for social science research in this sector?
Professor MacKerron: One of the
challenges is, and I think Brian has alluded to it, is that where
it bites there is a need for a great deal more basic demonstration
at a technical level. Much of the work that social scientists
can do and will be able to do does depend upon having prior work
done in the demonstration field. In the field of micro-wind that
we discussed earlier on, we have a bit of scepticism at the moment
but we know that better demonstration might allow us to be more
positive. I think that is the challenge, to try to persuade the
policy system that the so-called valley of death, the gap between
the initial demonstration and the commercial application, is one
of those things that Government might give greater attention to.
As you have already heard, the Environmental Transformation Fund
but also the Energy Technologies Institute are both encouraging
developments because they are designed to help fill that gap and
provide the material that the social scientists can then work
on more effectively.
Q283 Dr Blackman-Woods: Is it your
experience that it is common practice for social science researchers
when they are looking at the renewable sector to come up with
policy solutions to the problems that they find or not?
Professor MacKerron: I would put
it the other way round. I have found very few instances where
that has not been true; in other words, virtually all the social
science research that is devoted to renewables starts from a policy
question and uses the various tools of social science. Much of
it has been economics but increasingly it is sociology and social
psychology as well, looking at consumer behaviour, which is a
very big growth area right now. I would say the vast bulk of the
social science work is devoted to real and practical policy questions
and is designed to have impact either in the short term or more
commonly to influence the climate of opinion.
Q284 Dr Blackman-Woods: My question
was actually about policy solutions, not whether they come up
with policy questions, which I would expect them to do of course.
Are they coming up with policy solutions?
Professor MacKerron: The answer
is: yes, on the whole. One feels slight diffidence about allowing
experts to be too much in control of policy. One can make a contribution;
there are others, such as yourselves, who have contributions to
make as well. Yes, if I was not clear, I am sure it is the case
that all that research is designed to think about practical policy
solutions as well as simply to raise the questions.
Q285 Dr Blackman-Woods: Can you tell
the Committee briefly about the work being carried out at SPRU
and the role of renewable energy in electricity supply?
Professor MacKerron: I can briefly.
I think probably the largest single contribution, which is now,
as I said before, 18 months since publication but nevertheless
among the most influential is a large, multidisciplinary project
on micro-generation, which involved the collaboration of both
engineers and social scientists. The engineers are from Southampton
and Imperial College and the social scientists from SPRU. I think
that was very valuable because it did manage to conduct some important
small-scale engineering trials and then build some economic and
political analysis on the back of that. Just to give you an example
of, as it were, policy solutions, we came to some fairly strong
conclusions on the subject of the need to treat smart metering
not as a matter of individual consumer choice, but as a matter
of infrastructure development that should be treated at a national
and policy level generically and not, as I think the regulator
Ofgem would wish, as a matter of individual consumer choice. We
pointed to examples elsewhereItaly and Swedenwhere
such a broad policy approach has been made. We also did some quite
practical work on the question of capital allowances and enhanced
capital allowances, trying to even out the tax treatment of what
effectively is similar kinds of investment that might happen to
be done by householders to the kinds of investment that may be
done actually in the same technologies but by energy supply companies
whose tax treatment is much more generous and much more liable
to lead to early deployment.
Q286 Dr Blackman-Woods: So you already
have key recommendations emerging?
Professor MacKerron: And those
have been referenced often enough in parliamentary debates and
in government publications. That is an example of a fairly large
and important multi-disciplinary study. There are other examples
but I have a suspicion that in the interests of time I should
leave those out for now.
Q287 Dr Blackman-Woods: I turn to
David Sowden briefly?
Mr Sowden: In the interests of
time, I have a pointer for the Committee on a piece of research
that was done by the Sustainable Consumption Round Table two years
ago, which is relevant to your question, but I will write to the
Committee with the details.
Q288 Mr Cawsey: I want to get one
point in on the public sector and how it can make a contribution,
an example being the schools estates and the school estates contribute
15% of carbon emissions from the public sector and yet if you
look at building regulations, it will just say "all new school
buildings over 1000 m2 should consider the use of micro-generation",
which does not sound very tough. Some local policies might say
that there has to be a target of, say, about 10%. Should that
be a national requirement and is 10% too low? Should it be more
ambitious? What should be being done to make sure the public sector
plays a big role in micro-generation?
Mr Jones: You have raised quite
an interesting question there because in London we regard the
building regulations as the base case for business as usual. The
London Plan actually demands far more than building regulations
does. You may be aware that the new London Plan that was recently
published has increased the renewables target from 10% to 20%.
It has also fundamentally changed the way that you calculate that.
The previous London Plan was an energy-led target; the new London
Plan is a carbon-led target. It no longer talks about 10% renewable
energy generated on site. It talks about displacing 20% CO2 emissions
from renewable energy. That encourages and stimulates other technologies
like decentralised energy, further energy efficiency improvements,
because it is more economic for the developer to reduce its carbon
footprint to as low as possible before it then applies perhaps
more expensive micro-generation renewable technologies.
Mr Sowden: I would endorse that
with the revision to the Climate Change Planning Policy Statement,
shortly we hope to be underwritten by Michael Fallon's Private
Member's Bill that has already been through committee and which
opens up the Merton Rule type polices, as we call them, to both
renewables, which they were before, and importantly low carbon
technologies. It allows local authorities to specify those policies
in local plans that give developers the appropriate balance between
renewables on the one hand and CHP and energy efficiency on the
other. We welcome that move.
Q289 Mr Cawsey: I do not want to
put words into your mouths, but the Government has a very ambitions
Building Schools for the Future programme to replace and refurbish
every secondary school in England. Surely it would be sensible
to say that this has to be part of that, since they are doing
the work anyway?
Mr Samuel: We need to be more
Mr Sowden: Certainly that is something
that the Energy Minister, Malcolm Wicks, in his previous stint
as Energy Minister was very keen to see during several announcements.
Chairman: We shall ask him when we see
him. Thank you very much indeed. I am very sorry that this has
been a very quick canter through the subject. I do appreciate
your patience with us. Thank you all very much.