Main navigation

Social sharing options

You are here:

  1. Home
  2. Blog


Ask your question about the future of energy


Update: 30 May 2014

Thanks to everyone who sent in questions for our #HayEnergy event at the Hay Festival.

We had some great questions, but selected the following three. You can watch our discussion of these with Marcus Brigstocke via the You Tube video links below:


The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is teaming up with National Grid to deliver a “Powering the Country” event (“Marcus and Libby Try To Keep The Lights On”) at the Hay Festival and we’d like you to get involved.

Energy underpins every aspect of our life and we want your questions about how we supply and use it in the future. Add your questions as a comment here, or tweet using #hayenergy.

Your questions will feed into:

In my role as Chief Scientific Advisor at DECC, I want to help explain the scale of the energy challenge facing the UK. On 27 May I will be on stage with Marcus Brigstocke and Libby Purves to answer some of their questions with the help of DECC’s 2050 calculator. We’ll be joined by National Grid’s Richard Smith and climate change campaigner Mark Lynas. The aim of the event will be to crowd-source an energy pathway that delivers an 80% cut in emissions by 2050 – an ambitious aim, given we have only one hour!

If you can’t make it over to Hay, please look out for the podcast and other articles which will be available shortly after the event.

13 Responses to “Ask your question about the future of energy”

  1. Bernadette says:

    Will you please plan more events like the Energy Challenge Roadshow for wider engagement, with more time for discussion/debate and to agree some follow up informed actions. Start in Ealing; I will help.

  2. Nick Clack says:

    An event called “Powering the Country” with an aim of “…getting to grips with how to generate enough energy to keep the lights on” suggests too great a focus on energy supply. My question is how can we best inject the necessary urgency into increasing energy efficiency and reducing energy demand? And how can this be done in the most cost effective way? This is essential for decarbonising our energy system, as well as protecting our countryside — as we’ll need less new energy infrastructure. For example, we’ve some of the least energy efficient homes in Europe so there’s no time to lose. However, policy makers often seem to focus on energy generation. With the Green Deal failing to take off and politicians deciding to reduce Energy Company Obligation (ECO) targets, energy efficiency and demand reduction policy seems to be lacking urgency and effectiveness at precisely the time we need them most. Energy efficiency has the potential to be so significant it could act as an “additional source of energy”, but how can we realise this potential from where we are today?

  3. Nick Good says:

    Greater active participation in the demand side may have a great impact in aiding integration of renewables and avoiding construction of some central generation that would primarily be used for back-up and to cover demand peaks. It would be great to consider what kind of restrictions (timescales of seconds to hours, possibly remunerated) in energy service consumption (i.e. heating, entertainment, washing) the audience may consider acceptable, especially in the context of the wider benefits of such actions

  4. Phil James says:

    will Marcus and Libby be asked to consider whether an 80% reduction by 2050 is an appropriate target? Will there be any discussion of the need to minimise cumulative emissions between now and 2050 and that an 80% reduction might not be sufficient? Also, will they be allowed to conceive of a world in which we fly less? The 2050 Pathways tool can’t conceive of anything less than an 85% increase!

  5. Robert Palgrave says:

    My second set of questions is about bioenergy, and specifically the growing use of wood as a fuel in UK power stations.

    UK policy currently favours the conversion of coal burning power stations to woodfuel. Subsidies are provided which are funded by a levy on electricity consumers. Mistakenly in my view, the EU Renewable Energy Directive of 2009 categorised bioenergy as renewable and hence it is now eligible for this financial support – subject to meeting sustainability criteria. I won’t dwell on why, in my view, these criteria are not well-founded or are really able to be reliably audited.

    Rather I want to go back to basics. I want to ask if you accept that the combustion emissions produced by a power station should be treated differently under carbon accounting rules if the fuel is wood than if the fuel is coal. The carbon dioxide produced from each still adds to atmospheric concentrations and increases the greenhouse effect. Advocates of bioenergy will argue either that the emissions from wood are ‘new carbon’ and by inference it is OK to convert ‘new carbon’ to CO2, but it’s not OK to do the same with fossil carbon. Or they will say that emissions from wood burning will be sequestered by new tree or plant growth, and therefore they can be ignored.

    Neither argument deals with the temporal aspect. If we burn the carbon stored in trees and justify this because the carbon has only been there for (say) thirty years, or by claiming that the carbon will be absorbed by new growth, we sidestep the question of how long absorption will take and the effect that has on greenhouse gas concentration levels in the meantime.

    Just as important, maybe more so, is the question – will replacement growth actually happen? Those who burn the wood in power stations get credits for generating low carbon electricity. But they are not responsible for ensuring that the trees they burn are replaced and if they are in what timescale. Or that those trees are grown to the same size before being harvested. That responsibility (or not) lies with the free market and no government has the power to make it happen. When wood fuel is harvested on one continent and burnt in another, there can be even less certainty about regrowth. Without guaranteed re-growth, the carbon sequestration which bioenergy relies on cannot be assumed (and should not be).

    We have distorted carbon accounting for large scale power generation from wood – almost like us saying coal burning is OK and can be treated as low carbon because at some time in the future there will be CCS or that there will be Direct Air Capture to sequester today’s emissions from coal.

    What is your perspective on this?

    And how do you respond to the recent letter from the Cary Institute (Professor William H. Schlesinger and nearly 60 co-signatories), subject
    “Problems with burning wood from Southern US forests to generate electricity in the UK”?

  6. Robert Palgrave says:

    My question is about energy storage. Why is so little emphasis being given to this? And yes I have seen many studies, pilot projects and competitions around this area such as DECC’s own Heat Storage competition – incidentally Phase 2 monitoring of this competition was due to end March 2014, any news?

    After all, storing ‘energy’ has long been part of our history. Banking food and wood fuel for the winter months has sustained mankind for centuries.

    In the future when all the fossil fuel and uranium resources are depleted or are impossibly expensive or difficult to extract, we will have to ‘make do’ with what I call true renewables, i.e. wind, solar, hydro and marine. These renewables are inevitably intermittent, but they can provide a surplus when the natural resources are most powerful. If we accept that at some point in the future there will be no coal, gas or oil to provide baseload power generation as back up for wind and solar, we will need storage. There will be no option. Why not get on with it seriously now?

    There seems a big mismatch between the funding allocated by policy makers to CCS on thermal power stations to that provided for energy storage. And grinding a personal axe for a moment, the money being suggested for HS2 could be better spent on energy storage and demand management schemes.

    The UK energy market structure needs to be reformed so that energy storage is valued. Why not a financial support mechanism for organisations who take peaks of supply from solar & wind and time-shift them to match demand?

    • Nick Clack says:

      Agree that more focus and investment needs to be directed towards electricity storage to support renewable forms of energy and help decarbonise our energy system. It will also help to protect our countryside by enabling us to get more from the infrastructure we have. It would be good to get the panel’s view on what more can be done to incentivise more-urgent progress towards widespread and commercial application of large-scale electricity storage.
      I also agree that this contrasts sharply with the focus and investment allocated by policy makers to CCS for fossil fuel power stations.

  7. Mike Tregent says:

    Are you going to provide a strategy and guidance for fossil fuel divestment, allied to increased renewable (non nuclear) generation?

  8. When we start to face the issues correctly and focuss on day 2 day living consumption and sustainability,rather than constant increese (to justify grid expansion eg nuclear power stations).
    None of government parts or bodies to date not implemented even the simpliest methods of preserving energy and resourrrces, nor viable policy or plan has been presented. It should be time to assume personal and collective rdsponsibilities in day 2 day living.
    Leading be example is most powerful message!

  9. Helen N says:

    Q1) Cheap, reliable energy has transformed the lives of the poor. If this has been fingered as the cause of future catastrophe how do we stop a new form of inequality developing between those who can afford carbon neutral opportunities while maintaining an energy rich lifestyle and those who have to do without to achieve the same CO2 footprint? eg Is it OK for a wealthy man to buy carbon offsets to fly to his heart’s content and all the while lecturing his poorer neighbours for leaving their TV on standby?

    Q2) What level of energy use is justifiable and what is greedy? ie Should everyone have a CO2 allowance and be able to spend it any way they want or is any level of use OK so long as the use is for a ‘good’ reason and efficient? Who would define ‘good’?

    Q3) One of the key features of fossil fuels and nuclear is reliability. A well stocked energy grid can support a percentage of unreliable renewable supplies but soon becomes unstable if the ratio changes. For some, a power cut might seem like a minor inconvenience but for the frail and the business sectors, power cuts are a rapid route to disaster. What risks are we prepared to take in those areas while we experiment with renewables?

    Q4) There is a global lack of action on cutting CO2 but some hope that the UK can ‘set an example’ for the world to follow. To what levels should that experiment be tested and how much unilateral pain is acceptable?

  10. jamspid says:

    So how much is Mark ,Marcus and Libby getting payed for appearing then

    • DECC Admin says:

      We publish all DECC costs every month. The costs associated with the Hay Festival will appear in the transparency section of the website in due course (except for those that do not exceed £500).

Leave a Reply

DECC @YouTube

DECC's YouTube feed

Share DECC's YouTube Channel

view all

Partners & Help