In Mark’s pathway, 66% of primary energy will be imported and emissions will be 79% below 1990 levels in 2050.
Mark selected Level 4 (maximum) effort in 9 sectors on the energy demand and supply side.
It’s a daunting task to produce a coherent pathway, and to anticipate a certain amount of cross examination as a result. Undertaking the exercise does tease out a few salient points which are worth bearing in mind.
There are a few major factors and lots of very minor ones. On the supply side, the nuclear option and the offshore wind option are both enormous (as you might expect) and if you max out on either one, you end up with more electricity than you can use. However, it is possible to create a working scenario (just) where you don’t use either. Maxing out on low carbon electricity doesn’t instantly sort out the problem, and won’t get the GHG emission level down to target. To do this you need to increase demand for electricity.
There is a simple way to do this which is to switch as much transport and heating to electricity as you can. But that’s simple on the spreadsheet, not so simple in reality, and personally I have doubts as to whether using heat pumps everywhere is the answer. Similarly with electric cars. The problem is that the way the exercise is set up, if you don’t max out on electricity demand, you end up replacing it with biofuel which I am also unhappy about (we all come with baggage to this debate!). I would rather we used wood for construction than burned it.
If there was a neat way to store all this potential surplus electricity, or use it to manufacture other fuels (where is hydrogen in all this?), then we would be home and dry. But at the moment, it’s still not clear whether this will be possible. But perhaps it’s no less possible than harvesting marine algae (about which I know nothing, but it sounds splendid) or the strange category Geosequestration (science fiction?).
The other points which people have made is that there are some underlying assumptions here which can’t be reconfigured, namely population growth, household formation and economic growth – i.e. big increases in the demand side. It seems to me that it’s about time we started distinguishing between smart growth and dumb growth, and that we can pursue policies which encourage the former and penalise the latter. The nearest we get to that is the category called Growth in Heavy Industry (which has a major effect on the calculations – it’s one of the biggies).Here I have ticked box C which suggest a dramatic decline in industrial output, which in turn sounds very gloomy for jobs and wealth, and puts me firmly in the Jeramiah camp, but I am secretly hoping that it just masks a different sort of low carbon industry that grows to fill the void. Maybe that’s wishful thinking on my part.
Finally, I have ticked box 4 on the Average Temperature of Homes. It’s another biggie and this this looks like the hair shirt option for central heating, but central heating, as it is now configured, is terribly wasteful and my hope is that, with better controls, it will develop in new ways so that people can keep warm and comfortable with far less energy.