Dave Elliott: Set up in 2007, the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) brings together researchers at Loughborough, Nottingham and Birmingham universities and elsewhere to look at system-level energy issues in a £400m UK industry–government partnership. That scheme finishes at the end of this year. So, although we will no doubt hear more from the ETI in its last year, and from the various Catapult groups that have emerged, the Institute has brought together some of its conclusions into something of an early “goodbye” overview of the various options. The report is based on the ETI’s Clockwork and Patchwork scenarios, now revised since their original publication three years ago, for example taking account of the downward trends in energy service demand, which the ETI says “tend to make carbon targets easier to meet”. The high-level conclusion is that “a balanced, multi-vector approach can deliver an affordable, low carbon UK energy transition, with costs rising to around 1% of GDP by 2050”. But it says “without certain key technologies, meeting carbon targets would be much harder, jeopardizing industry and severely limiting lifestyle choices”. Although it warns that, given the potential for innovation across a range of technologies, “we cannot be prescriptive about the precise mix over a 30-year period”, it does push some ideas forward, and adopts quite a challenging approach. For example, the ETI notes that “sustainably grown biomass has the potential to become a critical resource for the UK energy system”, since it can be burned directly for heat and power, or converted into low-carbon gases and liquid fuels to decarbonize hard-to-treat sectors. That’s not a popular view, given the land-use constraints and biodiversity issues. It’s more usual these days to look to farm, food and municipal bio-wastes as a bio-energy source. The ETI also says that “carbon capture and storage (CCS) offers a versatile solution with applications across power, industry and hydrogen production”, arguing that “without CCS, UK carbon abatement costs could be double by 2050”. Given the low state of CCS work at present that’s also provocative.
Physics World 9th Jan 2019 read more »