Back to: Agenda
Previous: Dr Alan Renwick, the Constitution Unit at University College London: considering evidence
Next: Jenny Hill, Committee on Climate Change: Where our energy comes from
Sarah: Okay, so our first speaker is Professor Jim Watson from University College London. He is one of the expert leads for this Climate assembly, and he's going to speak to you now.
Jim Watson: Good morning, everybody. It's really great to be here. I missed the first weekend, but I'm going to join you this weekend and for all the rest of them. So some of you are going to be hearing quite a lot from me over the next couple of days because I'm looking after the how we travel session as well. So Jenny Hill and I are going to just give you a brief overview about where our energy comes from, both where it comes from now, how that's changed in the past, but also where our energy could come from as a contribution to meeting net zero. So I'm going to give a general overview. I'm gonna focus in particular on electricity, and then Journey is going to talk about the other, other forms of energy that could help us meet that net zero target by 2050.#
So, first of all, it's always worth thinking about, and I think this is particularly important for the three parallel sessions you'll be spending most of this weekend in, is why we're using energy it all. So energy is only useful because we want to do things with it. On on this slide I've just got some pictures of some of the things we do in our daily lives that require energy. So we need energy to get around from one place to another. Even if we're walking, we're using some form of energy. Clearly, even if we're sitting in a traffic jam as well. So for road transport, for air travel, for trains, et cetera. In winter in particular this time of year, we need energy to keep warm. We use energy in our homes and in businesses, in hotels like this, to keep the temperature at a comfortable level. In many countries, they will also use energy quite a lot in the hot weather to keep cool. So for cooling as well, that's less the case in the UK. We use it for a whole range of different appliances in our home, depicted there, you know, kettles all the gadgets in kitchens, entertainment and communications. All these things require energy, so the mobile phones you use, the networks that are used to transmit text messages, et cetera, all require energy. And then the final picture, which is of Teesside, one of the industrial areas of the UK in the northeast of England. Energy is used to produce all the goods we use. The goods we buy and the goods that industry uses too, so energy is a pervasive thing that is required for a modern society to operate.#
Now Chris Stark covered some of this in the first weekend, so this is really just to reinforce what he said and to give a bit more detail. So what sources of energy do we use in the UK? And on the left hand side, I've got the fossil fuels and on the right hand side, non fossil energy sources. So these are all energy sources we use right now for the UK economy. So at the top, an oil rig, we still are producing oil in the North Sea in the UK, and some of that finds its way into our vehicles and other uses. In the middle, although it's hard to see, is coal. Coal used to be the majority of the energy we used in the UK around the industrial revolution and for many years after that, now it's used much less than it used to be. And of course, natural gas, at the bottom. Most of you will use it for heating or cooking in homes, although some homes are heated through other means if they're not on the gas network. So all of those fuels still make the majority of our energy up. On the right hand side, we've got the non fossil energy sources, in most cases low carbon energy sources so they don't emit much in the way of greenhouse gases. So that includes nuclear power, which is at the top of the slide there. The UK was a pioneer in nuclear energy, it has been generating nuclear electricity for for use in civilian uses since about the 1950's, so that's been a part of our energy mix for quite a long time. Various renewable sources are the other pictures on that slide. Some of them are quite new, so wind and solar, although they were invented many decades ago, they're new in terms of being in widespread use in countries around the world. And those sources, as I'll show you in a minute, have grown quite rapidly in the last few years. There's also other renewables, so bioenergy at the bottom. That's something Jenny Hill is going to talk a bit more about in her talk. So that's using wood fuel to burn, to make electricity or heat. And then in the bottom right, that's a hydro electric power station. That's been around for quite a long time in areas like Scotland, hydro electricity has been in use for a long, long time, and that's basically using the energy in rivers to generate electricity as well. So those are some of the sources we use.#
So what's the share of all those sources at the moment? So I'm just going to go back a bit in time to 1990, to about 30 years ago, because actually, one thing that's important to bear in mind is that we've changed quite a lot in the last 30 years. So back in 1990, 90% of our energy came from fossil fuels. You can see the very big sources there. Coal is in black, oil in red, and gas in blue. Between them, they were 90% of the energy we used. The purple is nuclear power. That's all in electricity. And then if you look really, really hard, you can see renewable energy on that chart. It's very small in 1990, so it's a very a small green sliver at the top of that chart. I've also put how much energy we used in 1990 just to show you the difference between then and the present day. So the next slide is showing you the most recent data that we have from government, which shows the energy we used in 2018. The data is always a little bit late coming out. And I draw your attention to the amount of energy we used compared to 1990's. The amount of energy we used in 2018 was about 10% less across the economy than what we used in 1990. That's partly because we've become more efficient. We need less energy to do the same amount of things, and it's partly because of the structure of our economy has changed. So there's less use of energy for industry, for example, because our industry sector is smaller. The really striking changes are in the shares though. So you can see, for example, that the black wedge has got much, much smaller. So that's the use of coal that's declined very rapidly in the last 30 years. The blue one has got bigger, so the use of gas is increased. And then the other big change is the green one which you can now see, which is renewable energy. So the amount of renewable energy has increased a lot. And as it says there, overall fossil fuels are now 79%, so the amount of non fossil energy has doubled since 1990. So it's quite a big change, but that's a change that's gonna have to accelerate over the coming years if we're going to meet net zero.#
So next, why electricity matters. So these things are often confused, but electricity is just part of the energy we use. So we use electricity for our mobile phones, TVs, on things like that. But some of the energy we use is not in the form of electricity, so for example, for our gas boilers and so on. So it's a lot of reasons why electricity is important. First, as Chris Stark said in weekend one, electricity generation is where we've seen some of the rapid falls in greenhouse gas emissions so far, so we've already seen some changes and I'll summarise those on the next slide. Further reductions in greenhouse gases across the economy can be made, and one way we can do that is to use electricity in other parts of the economy. So the examples I've given here are moving to electric cars, away from fossil fuel cars, moving to more electric heating and away from using gas and oil for our heating in our homes. So many analyses think that electricity is going to be more important in the future. So that's why it's particularly important that we focus on that and think about how to make it even lower carbon. And the Committee on Climate Change, which (inaudible) in their analysis, they said that electricity use would need to be 2 to 4 times bigger. So in other words, the amount of electricity we need to generate and use in the UK would need to double or quadruple perhaps over the time to 2050, if we're going to meet net zero. Now that's just one view as Chris was at pains to stress. If you look at other analyses, they will usually all say electricity use has to expand. So for electricity we have to keep it moving towards lower carbon sources and we have to expand the amount of electricity we generate, because of needing to use it in other uses across the economy.#
So this is what we've done in electricity so far. 1990 most of electricity was fossil fuel generated, so that's the blue bar at the bottom. At the side of this graph is the amount of electricity generated in the year that I'm talking about. So it's 1990 on the left, 2018 on the right. So the majority is fossil fuel, about 75% fossil fuel in 1990. When we get to 2018 that's fallen to 50% or less, and you see the big change is the green box again. So that's the renewable. So the renewables have gone from something very, very low, around 2%, to something over 35% or around 35%. Sorry in 2018. So that needs to go further. And also nuclear power is about the same as it was in 1990. So that's the purple. So in terms of expanding that further, we've got a number of options. We can keep deploying more of the technologies we use, so things like wind farms, which are making up about half the renewable electricity we generate at the moment. More solar. There's also newer technologies like wave and tidal technologies that we could deploy the moment. They're not widely used because they're expensive, but they could perform a greater role in future. And then there's other technologies, such as new forms of nuclear energy that could be deployed, again they're in an early stage and they're expensive at the moment. And then finally, carbon capture and storage, which Chris mentioned in the first weekend. So that's where you can capture the carbon dioxide emissions when you burn fossil fuels at a power plant and pipe it to an underground storage site, for example under the sea. So that's another thing that you can do. Yes I can. So carbon capture and storage, so that's where you can basically capture the emissions from something like a large gas fired or coal fired power stations on the site. You then concentrate that gas, you pipe it, usually quite a long way, and then you can store it basically, in a geological cavern underground. Now in the UK most of those are under the sea, for example in the North Sea, and they're often places where we used to get oil and gas from. So instead of having oil and gas in those reservoirs, they will also have carbon dioxide in there. Is that okay? Okay, no problem. Sorry I went a bit fast through that.#
So finally, just some links between electricity and the current weekend and the parallel streams we're going into, just to emphasise them. So why is electricity important? So first for how we travel, of course I've already said we may be shifting more towards electric cars and electric forms of transport. So electricity is important to understand for that. Second in the home, you will hear about some of the options for reducing emissions in the home, one of which is shifting to electric ways of heating homes. So again, the electricity is important there. And then what we buy, electricity is already used to manufacture many of the products we use and buy in the shops. If we de-carbonised electricity, if we make it more low carbon, that means the carbon emissions footprint or the impact of buying those products is going to reduce and that could help reduce emissions from industry as well. So I will leave it there. Thank you very much.
Sarah: Thank you very much, Jim.
Transcripts provided by Just Transcription. These transcripts have been automatically created and then reviewed by two editors. If you find an error in the transcription where it does not match the video, please contact us at email@example.com.