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Sarah: So welcome back, everybody. Welcome back. I hope you very much enjoyed the break. We're going to start at the session now it's our Q&A with Jim and Jenny. Welcome back to those joining us online. We're going to start - we thought it would be useful for Jim and Jenny just to start by giving us the three key takeaways that they want you to take from their presentations before we get into your questions. So we'll go with Jim first.
Jim Watson: Okay, thank you. So three points from me. First, that only some of the energy we use is electricity. So just in your deliberations, and when you're thinking, just make sure you're clear about the distinction. Second, the electricity sector has made a lot of progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions so far, but it needs to go a lot further. And third, we need - we may need to, we're probably likely to have to expand the amount of electricity we generate and use in the UK to meet net-zero.
Jenny Hill: Okay, so three takeaways from me. There are different alternative fuels which might be useful where you can't use electricity. Hydrogen, when we're thinking about that this afternoon, I think it would be useful if you think about whether there will be enough of it and whether it will be low carbon, and where we use it. For bioenergy, the big question is, is it sustainable? Are you using it efficiently? And potentially, might you use it with carbon capture and storage? And synthetic fuels, they're not currently developed. We think they could be very expensive. So is there a risk that we focus on them and don't focus on other things like airplane efficiency?
Sarah: Thank you very much. So how we're going to do this then, is we're going to start off with me asking Jim your table's priority questions and then we're gonna hand over, and Kaela is gonna ask Jenny your priority questions for her. So, Jim, starting off, we have a range of questions for you about carbon capture and storage and the first three are all about risks. So the questions are: what are the risks with carbon capture and storage? Could it escape? Will there be similar problems to nuclear like concern for future generations? We also have a question asking specifically about economic and environmental costs and other long term potential impacts. Yeah, and just generally about future potential negative impact here.
Jim Watson: Okay, so there are risks with carbon capture and storage. There are risks, for example, if you store it in a place underground that isn't suitable, then some of that gas could escape over time. Clearly, what we need for a climate perspective is carbon dioxide to stay where we put it. So it's really important to select those sites very carefully. But if you do so, then monitoring studies so far have shown that the CO2 doesn't leak, so that's one point. So it's a risk, but it can be managed. But the second is that, yes, there are economic risks if you like. So the cost of carbon capture and storage are still quite high. It depends which application you use. So if you do on some industrial applications, it can be cheaper than for power generation, for example. But it is always going to be more costly to generate energy using fossil fuels and then adding the carbon capture on because it's an extra piece of investment, you've got to make it and an extra thing you've got to do. So the economics are something else to consider.
Sarah: And any environmental impacts?
Jim Watson: I think environmental impacts really is associated with any potential leakage of the CO2 when you've stored it. So that comes down to very careful monitoring. And again it's a lot about choosing the right sites so that, actually, the CO2 is much more likely to stay where you put it.
Sarah: And another question on carbon capture and storage. So what happens to carbon after we store it on? And what can we do with it?
Jim Watson: You really just need to monitor it, and it needs to be monitored for many decades. Otherwise, there's really no point in putting it down there in the first place if it is going to come out again. So we can't use it for anything. It's really is a basically a waste product and we're putting it in those storage reservoirs and under the ground, and we need to monitor it over many decades to make sure it stays where we put it.
Sarah: So the question was a slightly different theme. The decline in the use of coal had a negative economic impact. Could transitioning to other fuel sources also have a negative impact?
Jim Watson: The short answer is yes. Yes, so those things could happen. So all of the sources we use, particularly when this production of those sources in the UK, have associated industries and jobs. So the oil and gas industry, which is particularly concentrated in Scotland, has a lot of jobs associated with it. If we don't think carefully about how we manage the decline of that and the shift to alternatives, then we could have similar economic impact. But hopefully we can learn the lessons from some of the mistakes that we made in the past.
Sarah: Great, questions about nuclear. So why has nuclear power, the percentage of it that we use, stayed the same since 1990 and how much might it need to expand to meet future energy need?
Jim Watson: So one reason why it's stayed the same is that, you know, opinion is often split on whether nuclear power is a good idea. Some people are worried, for example, about safety, and about risks. Particularly because you know periodically, over time we've had some quite serious accidents, you know, mainly latterly in other countries. The other reason why we haven't invested a lot is that it's very expensive in Western Europe in particular. Now it depends on which country you are in to how much nuclear power costs. But the attempts to build new stations including in the UK, where we are building one new station in Western Europe, have been plagued by very high costs and very long construction times. So there are economic challenges. And then there are challenges to do with public acceptability. You know where there is a split of opinion, on about whether they're a good idea or not.
Sarah: So we have two more questions on nuclear. If you feel you've already answered them, just say so. And so it says here nuclear energy has not used, has not increased. We learned last week that companies don't want to do it. Why does government not support and incentivise its production and use?
Jim Watson: So the government is incentivising nuclear quite a lot and a lot of companies do want to do it. The issue is that until you've got a very firm financing deal for building a new reactor, you're not going to start work on it, because of the amount of money you have to spend to do it. So we got one reactor under construction at Hinkley C in the west of England. So that's already happening. We are all going to support that through our bills in terms of paying for the costs of that. Government's also supporting some more advanced technologies through research money, for example. So there are some research programmes as well, so there's some support out there. But if we want to do more clearly, the amount of support that's there would have to increase significantly.
Sarah: And just for the record, I said there were three other questions, but the other question is actually the same as the last one, so I won't read that out as well. So moving on to questions about renewables. So what's being done to help people change into renewables? And how quickly can you scale up renewable energy?
Jim Watson: So renewable energy. The main action has been electricity, as I've illustrated, so it has scaled up very fast. So just to repeat the statistic in 1990 it was 2% of electricity, now it's somewhere around 1/3. So that is quite a big change, and most of that progress has been made in the last 10 years, so it has been quite rapid, things like wind and solar scaling up quickly. There have been in the past incentives that you can get if you put solar panels on your roof or in a local community centre or school or whatever. Now, the amount of money available through something called the feed-in tariff has been reduced over time, so there's no longer very much of an incentive. So there has been a lot of help. That's why you see so many solar panels appearing around the country. But the amount of money available to do that is much, much smaller now. One of the reasons for that is the cost of doing that has fallen so dramatically over the last 10 years. So it's now much cheaper to do than it used to be.
Sarah: How much of our energy needs could come from solar, wind, hydro and nuclear?
Jim Watson: In principle, we could get all of our energy needs from all of those sources. I think the thing that's uncertain is what combination of those sources we might need. But many people still think we have new to have a role for fossil fuels, but if we're going to have that role for fossil fuels in that mix for energy to meet net-zero, then the carbon capture and storage technologies that we both talked about the need to come into play.
Sarah: If Scotland is close to 100% renewable energy, why can't this be used as a template for the rest of the UK?
Jim Watson: So Scotland has some advantages. So geography, for example, it's got a lot more space for things like wind turbines and other renewable sources. So a lot of the renewables they generate in Scotland gets exported to us here in England and in Wales and so on. So you know they can do more and we and we can do more across the UK. But Scotland has some particular advantages in terms of resources, and that's why you see a higher amount in Scotland than you do in other areas.
Sarah: What negative environmental impact, so for example, habitat destruction were renewable sources such as wind, hydro, and wood-burning have?
Jim Watson: Yeah, there are some environmental impacts and again for all energy sources, we have to be really careful not to solve one problem which is reducing greenhouse gas emissions and then create a lot of others. So particularly, I think, as Jenny was emphasising for bioenergy, we really have to be very careful in terms of how much land we use for the crops or the trees we use, which we then burn. What are some of the other impacts for example, on the biodiversity on wildlife habitats of doing that? So that's where some of the bigger impacts are. The people are studying all of these technologies, so even solar has potentially some impacts. If you build very large solar farms in the countryside that is converting land from other uses and may have impacts on wildlife and so on. So these are things which we do have to be very careful about when we're expanding the use of renewable energy.
Sarah: When will the UK national grid to be upgraded to enable new renewable - So I'll start that again. When will the UK National Grid be upgraded to enable renewable technologies to become a significant part of our electricity production? And could you start by explaining what the National Grid is, please?
Jim Watson: Yes, the national grid is both a company and a thing. So the company, the National Grid Company, basically runs the very large electricity network wires, you see. So when you're travelling around the country and you see pylons marching across the countryside, that is the national grid. So it's the very large wires. When those -that grid and that electricity gets closer to homes and to buildings, they tend to go underground. And so that's what's called the local grid. So the National Grid is the bit that connects everything across the country. Now they're already doing quite a lot of work to integrate all of these renewable sources, which is starting to come onto the electricity grid, so they're already having to work quite hard. So, as one of somebody from National Grid said to me a couple of years ago, summer used to be quite a boring time in the National Grid because we use much less electricity in the summer because we're not using it for heating, for example. But now it's becoming more exciting for them because there's a lot of solar generation, so they're having to already balance that grid much more actively all the year-round. So the grid is already having to do quite a lot to make sure renewables could be expanded.
Sarah: And the last question for you Jim. Can you clarify what electricity imports are and how it's done?
Jim Watson: So electricity imports, I hoped one of you wouldn't ask that because I didn't have time to mention it on the pie charts I showed. So that is imports. That's connections, electricity lines between the UK and other countries. At the moment, the biggest lines we have are with France. So we do import most of the time some electricity from France into the UK, and that helps us meet our electricity demand. There are now plans to build other links to other countries, and so the amount of electricity we might use from other countries might expand. But equally we can use those links to also export electricity if we have more than we need at a certain time, to help other countries meet their demand, so we can have a mutual sharing of electricity between the UK and other countries.
Sarah: So that's the end of the questions for Jim. We've taken all the questions from your tables that you voted for that got at least one vote, and Jim is going to go through them. If we feel that they're important questions amongst those that we need to answer this weekend rather than waiting for Weekend 4, we will answer those for you over dinner this evening.
Kaela: Okay, so now we're going to move on to the questions that you have for Jenny. And the first one, just a big one for you. Are synthetic fuels available now? Has this method been tested or is it still very much theoretical?
Jenny Hill: So it's very much at an early stage of research and development. It is theoretical, but it could be developed further.
Kaela: Okay. So what stage is hydrogen technology at right now? And how many years will it take to implement its usage on a larger scale?
Jenny Hill: That's a really good question. So at the moment in the UK, we do use hydrogen, a bit of hydrogen in industry and also a bit in agriculture. But that's not, actually, for energy purposes, we use it for other things like to make fertilizer, for instance. So when we're looking at this, we have quite a lot of development that's gone into looking at different ways you could use hydrogen. And so using it in boilers, using it in cars, using in trucks. We are not currently doing that anywhere at scale at the moment. And so when we look at how fast we could roll it out, then typically, we're looking at potentially doing some stuff in the industry over the next decade. But for the really large scale rollout, typically, experts will look at 2030 on and then the 2030s going into 2040s through to 2050.
Kaela: Okay, so you've given us a couple of examples there. But what are the risks of hydrogen and synthetic fuel use?
Jenny Hill: So hydrogen is a flammable gas. It has, therefore, a lot of the same safety considerations as natural gas and there is work underway that's being undertaken by government, which is looking at the safety case. For instance, piping gas, hydrogen gas through our network instead of natural gas. In terms of synthetic fuels, so similarly, it's another flammable fuel, potentially. But yeah, as far as I know, and we may want to come back on this. As far as I know, there aren't specific risks to synthetic fuels.
Kaela: So I guess another question related to that came with synthetic fuels, what are the waste products, if any, that are produced by the manufacture?
Jenny Hill: So again, I'm not aware of any major waste products and again to stress this is absolutely something which is currently being looked at in lab, so it's not being produced anywhere. It's scaling and creating waste at scale. So again it's uncertain. But to the best of our knowledge, we're not aware of major waste products.
Kaela: So where is most of the research money going? Is it in hydrogen or synthetic or somewhere else?
Jenny Hill: So I think it's fair to say that at the moment there is more research money going into hydrogen and that reflects the fact that we think that it could be, I should say, the CCC and other experts think that it could be useful in lots of different places across the economy. So the CCC, the Committee on Climate Change, sorry, that's both in the UK and internationally. There is quite a lot of interest in the role that hydrogen could play.
Kaela: Okay, so we've got another one here. What are the benefits of green over blue hydrogen and do these outweigh the costs? And what are the overall negatives of using these different hydrogens? You might need to remind people the difference.
Jenny Hill: Yes, so we talked about green hydrogen coming from electricity and water, and then we talked about blue hydrogen coming from fuel and using carbon capture and storage. And I mentioned that in the UK at the moment we think that green hydrogen is a bit more expensive, so that's a really good question. I guess we're getting into a lot of the really interesting questions which came up around carbon capture and storage generally. So what happens to this CO2 when you're storing it long term? And can you be confident that it really is staying in the ground? And how much capacity do we have for burying this CO2? So you know those issues come with blue hydrogen. Green hydrogen, you don't have all of those issues, and it's worth saying potentially as well that costs could come down. So particularly outside of the UK, where you have very low-cost renewables like very low-cost solar, then it means that the cost of using that electricity to make hydrogen is also much lower. So one of the things that we're currently thinking about is, you know, could we, for instance, be producing this in places where you have lots and lots and lots of solar resource, lots of sun like the desert, and then shipping it across to the UK.
Kaela: So related to some of that, we're gonna move on to questions about space and carbon storage. So there's two questions here. How many trees equate to one wind turbine and how much space is needed.
Jenny Hill: So, that's a fantastic question. We did some quick back of the envelope calculations and essentially, this is a very rough, very ballpark. But if you plant a tree, then it might take up over 30 years, one tonne. So you really need to plant a lot of trees if you're going to even start to offset your own footprint, which could be six or seven tonnes a year if you're UK average person. And if you look at wind turbines, then you can save many, many times that amount in terms of CO2. So you're thinking about 10,000 tonnes in a year for -a given wind turbine and obviously there's a range in terms of size. So that really means that you know trees can be a really important part of the solution, but we're talking about planting billions of trees. And as Jim says, you know, we need to think about what that might do to things like biodiversity, to wild life. We need to be making sure that we're doing that right.
Kaela: So I guess related to that is how do we physically handle and store the volumes of CO2? And what happens when we run out of space for carbon capture and storage?
Jenny Hill: That is an absolutely brilliant question, and I'm sure there are lots of people around the world thinking about this. It's fair to say that people are really split on whether we should be relying on things like carbon capture and storage at scale. Because there is this issue that, you know, you can only go on for so long basically trying to capture this CO2, and this carbon and store it. And so yes, there there are real considerations there, and that's something that we want you to think about in Weekend 4.
Kaela: Okay, so coming from a different angle we've got a question here about, is technology keeping up with the urgency of the situation or are costs only dictating what we do? And I think related to that is decided - or who decides on cost versus benefits?
Jenny Hill: Yeah, so that is a fascinating question. It's a huge topic. I'm not going to be able to do it justice. Clearly, we need to have consent from everyone in up and down the UK or as many people as possible for these big changes. And government needs to feel confident that they have our support in these changes because, you know, not only what does it mean that we need to change how we lead our lives, but there are also some costs involved. And particularly there are costs involved in areas like buildings and there are real questions around how we pay for it. Who pays for it? Does it go onto our taxes? Do we continue to pay for some- through energy bills? So, yeah, I think technology is, yeah, there are the technology solutions now, and I'm confident that there will be even better technology solutions in the future. It is therefore about costs. But when we think about costs, we do absolutely need to be thinking about the benefits and just to finish up there. You know, so when we think about insulating our homes, let's absolutely think about the fact that we can make our homes more comfortable, that we can reduce our energy bills and that we can help support vulnerable people and low-income people in doing so.
Sarah: I would just quickly add to that, that they are precisely the questions that we're going to be considering as an assembly and getting your view on.
Kaela: Okay, so looks like a good time for a couple more or so specific questions. What about how can bioenergy fuels be carbon neutral?
Jenny Hill: So it really depends on how you do it. And apologies, I had to go over this really quickly and so I'm very glad that you asked me this question. One example of how you might do it in a way which is carbon neutral is if you are using wastes. So I mentioned collecting food wastes and using that to produce biomethane and then piping that through the gas network. Now that's neutral because we assume that if you didn't do it, that essentially those waste would be breaking down anyway and just going into the atmosphere. So there's a real opportunity to actually use some of that for energy. And similarly, we think about essentially where you might have other cases like this. So if you're- if you have a forest that you're using to produce high-quality timber, you can't use all of the bits of the tree for that timber. And so some of it you might use for paper. But there might still be a bit leftover and that would then be a really sustainable source for something like energy.
Kaela: And we're talking there a little bit about methane. One of the other questions is, if it could be used for energy why can't agricultural methane be used in the same way?
Jenny Hill: So short answer, I think it can it's just a question of how you collect it.
Kaela: Okay, another one we've got here is where is fracking coming to the question?
Jenny Hill: Great question. So short answer, it's just another way of getting gas. Jim, do you want to come in?
Jim Watson: That's exactly what I say, it's not a different sort of fuel. It is a source of gas, it's caused a lot of controversy, obviously, but that's all it is. There's nothing special about it. What's special is the way that it's produced. But the actual end product is methane, which is the same as natural gas.
Kaela: And I think this is our last question for you, Jenny. Which is, why are we not using more hydroelectricity from rivers?
Jenny Hill: So Jim mentioned this briefly. Basically, you're limited by sites, so rivers that have enough water flowing through them that you could actually use that to generate electricity.
Kaela: Okay, so I think it's the last of the questions. Unless you have anything to add to that one?
Sarah: So that is the end of the Q&A, and if we can just say a big thank you to our panellists. The last thing we are going to do before lunch is to give you a chance to digest and discuss some of what you've heard these two...
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