Scotland should consider new nuclear power stations, investing in hydrogen and installing many more windfarms to meet its climate goals, an expert inquiry has concluded. The inquiry by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s national academy, said a massive increase in low-carbon electricity production would be needed in order to reach the country’s new goal of net zero emissions by 2045. Prof Becky Lunn, a civil engineer who is deputy chair of the inquiry, said electricity production may need to increase fourfold to decarbonise the transport system and heating, with major implications for ministers and the public. Alongside a substantial increase in electricity production, Scotland would need: A statutory commission to provide independent expert direction on energy policy and governance; Much tougher energy efficiency regulations for homes and buildings; Substantial investment in carbon capture and storage, so CO2 created during the production of hydrogen could be buried offshore. Subsidies to ensure higher energy prices and upgrading costs did not increase fuel poverty. Lunn said this was increasingly urgent. Scotland’s two nuclear power stations at Hunterston and Torness, which provided 37% of the country’s electricity in 2017, are due to close by 2030, just as electricity demand is forecast to soar. The RSE inquiry was funded by four major energy firms, the oil company BP, the French nuclear and renewables firm EDF, the gas company Centrica and the renewables firm SSE. The RSE said they had no bearing or influence over the report’s conclusions but the report mirrored those companies’ arguments that nuclear energy, oil and gas would still be needed – conclusions many climate and environment activists reject. Lunn said ministers should eventually consider small modular nuclear reactors, an experimental technology which, its supporters argue, is safer and much easier to build than large-scale nuclear power stations. Methane would still be needed in large amounts to produce hydrogen: large-scale hydrogen plants would be connected to carbon storage sites in the bedrock offshore. Oil would still be needed to provide fuel for aviation and shipping, for medicines and materials such as plastics.
Guardian 17th June 2019 read more »
People living in Scotland will have to pay more for their energy and will be urged to use less of it in the coming years, according to experts. There were also warnings of hard choices ahead to ensure the lights stayed on, with a potential shortfall of electricity from 2030 and pressure to meet emissions reduction targets. The report, Scotland’s Energy Future, which was compiled by the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), was published in the capital yesterday. It recommends the creation of an independent Scottish energy commission to scrutinise policy and make long-term recommendations. The report’s authors concluded that no single technological solution would meet the country’s future needs but huge amounts of investment would be needed over the next few decades as part of the transition to a lower carbon economy. That is likely to involve building more sources of renewable generation and implementing battery storage of electricity more widely. The report ranked various energy generation technologies on cost, climate change and security, plus social acceptability and economic impact. None of the options scored entirely positively across all the measures. There was broad consensus that reducing energy demand would be beneficial and that efficiency measures such as better insulation in existing homes and putting solar panels on newly built properties, were among the areas for improvement. The report said that some emerging low-carbon technologies would help to meet emissions targets but were likely to be “significantly more expensive” in the short term than present methods. Moves towards the wider adoption of electric vehicles and district heating systems may drive up demand for electricity, it said. This would also require Scotland to more than double its capacity for generating electricity and to build a new charging infrastructure. Wind energy was highlighted as one way of meeting that rising demand but the report pointed out that large investment in energy storage, such as batteries, would be required to balance the intermittent nature of the generation. Key recommendations: Establish an independent commission on energy policy and governance for Scotland; Decide with the British government which technologies to back in “a timely manner”; Stake out a clear position on the security of Scotland’s energy supply and decide whether domestic capacity should be increased; Improve energy security by expanding and diversifying Scotland’s storage options; Reduce demand for energy and enforce higher standards of energy efficiency in new housing and infrastructure.
Times 18th June 2019 read more »
RSE recommends that decisions on investments by both the Scottish and UK Governments must be made “in a timely manner” and consideration given to research and development funding. The paper also covers the potential of emergent technologies, saying carbon capture and storage (CCS) coupled with hydrogen production as a heat source could limit damage to the climate, but would require a high level of investment. Meanwhile, a rapid move towards transport and heat electrification may require “more than doubling” the current electricity generating capacity and creation of “substantial” new infrastructure. And while wind energy can play a “significant role in meeting increased demand and reducing emissions, its variable nature means another form of generation, or significant investments in energy storage, would likely be required in tandem”. Professor Becky Lunn, deputy inquiry chair, said: “Our politicians have to make some very difficult decisions, but they must make these in an informed way and without delay. It’s also vital that they are honest with the public about what is achievable, what choices must be made, and what changes will need to take place. “Scotland needs energy and decisions must be made on how we are going to source this. There are options available, but these must be viewed in the round by looking at Scotland’s energy needs, and sensibly balancing out the pros and cons of each. Dismissing technologies or potential solutions simply because they do not fulfil every possible criterion is likely to lead to Scotland increasing the amount of energy it imports, which should not be done without due consideration of the risks.
The National 18th June 2019 read more »
Herald 17th June 2019 read more »
Sir Muir Russell and Professor Rebecca Lunn: There are a range of options available to Scotland for clean, secure, affordable and resilient energy. However, each option has advantages and drawbacks, and all require trade-offs. No single policy can address all the issues and hard choices must be made with a robust understanding of consequences and compromises, and without delay. Electricity accounts for only a portion of total energy consumption. In addition, wind energy has its disadvantages. Onshore wind requires large areas of land, creating social issues, and the variable nature of wind means that large scale storage, which requires huge investment, or another form of generation is needed to supplement days when conditions are unfavourable.
Herald 18th June 2019 read more »
More needs to be done to help North Sea sector develop carbon capture technology – but experts also back nuclear.
Press & Journal 18th June 2019 read more »
Royal Society of Edinburgh 17th June 2019 read more »
Richard Dixon: Today the Scottish Parliament’s Climate Change Committee has its first session considering amendments to the new Climate Bill, following extensive evidence sessions they started in October last year. Last week Theresa May announced the UK would aim for net-zero emissions by 2050, as recommended by the UK Committee on Climate Change, the official advisors to both the UK and Scottish Governments. This promise contains some creative accounting but it is still very significant. Scotland has already accepted its specific recommendations from the UKCCC – net-zero by 2045. The Scottish Government also asked for advice on the target for 2030, because this near-term trajectory in the next decade is crucial in fighting climate change, and again accepted the advice given to set this target at a 70 per cent reduction on 1990 levels of emissions. So that’s all great then, right? Yes and no. It is always welcome when climate targets are toughened. Unfortunately, the UKCCC has confused the picture by using an estimated future accounting system instead of the current one. If we set 70 per cent today, it will become around 65 per cent when the inventory changes because of the agreed mechanism. If you want a real 70 per cent, you need to set it at 76 per cent in today’s counting system. For net zero, UKCCC admitted you need to set the date at 2042 to really deliver in 2045.
Scotsman 18th June 2019 read more »