After visiting seven cities across the country we arrived in Bristol for the final leg of DECC’s first ever 2050 calculator tour. The series ended in style at Brunel’s Old Station, with an energy exhibition of 38 companies in the day time (see the Met Office film of the event), followed by a sell-out calculator session in the evening.
An audience of 300 people was joined by an onstage panel of, Kevin McCloud (TV presenter), George Ferguson (Bristol’s Mayor), Peter Capener (Bath & West Community Energy) and Beatrice Orchard (Federation of Master Builders). As ever the show was chaired by Mark Lynas, with DECC’s Chief Scientific Advisor, David MacKay the resident calculator expert.In a change from previous events, the panellists suggested key demand and supply changes they’d like to see in order to get to the 80% cut in emissions that are needed by 2050. The audience was then asked to give their views and to vote for the level of ambition they wanted to see for each issue (which is generally 1, 2, 3 or 4).
Beatrice kicked proceedings off with a bid to insulate all homes in the UK. The audience was supportive, with one person saying how much his recent investment in external wall insulation made his house much more comfortable. But the scale of change needed for option 4 was considered too much, with the audience deciding to go for option 3.
Then, following Peter Capener’s suggestion that we use heating controls more smartly to keep the overall average temperature down, the audience opted for the maximum level of change, voting for an average temperature in homes of 16 °C (within this average of course there could be many homes with a higher temperature).
As we approached the midway point, and with good progress made on the demand side, the panel turned their attention to supply.
Kevin McCloud proposed an increase in tidal power. With the Severn Estuary on their doorstep, this was a proposal that resonated with the audience. David MacKay reminded everyone that, like wind power, tidal suffers from intermittency, so will depend on backup sources of power when output is low. But this didn’t deter the audience and they settled on 2.5 after option 2 and 3 received equal votes.
George Ferguson concluded the panellists’ suggestions with a bid for an increase in solar power. This drew a positive reaction from the crowd, but there was also a strong sense of realism in terms of what could be achieved. Eventually option 2 for solar PV was chosen, alongside a more ambitious option 4 for solar thermal.
With time running out Mark Lynas turned to David for suggestions on how to make the final changes needed to get the emissions under 80%. A quick run through of the options for future industrial growth, bioenergy and geo-engineering resulted in decisions that led to a dramatic reduction in emissions, with the final figure a fraction short of hitting the 2050 target – not bad for two hours work.
You can see the pathway to 2050 chosen by the audience on the energy pathways calculator.