In Dustin’s pathway, 33% of primary energy will be imported and emissions will be 81% below 1990 levels in 2050.
Dustin selected Level 4 (maximum) effort in 8 sectors, in particular to highly curtail demand from transport, households and industry.
The standard way to think about energy is to focus on the three competing objectives of energy security, cost, and carbon. These are important, but they and, to an extent, the calculator ignore the wider context of the constraints set by the natural environment. To paraphrase the founder of Earth Day, our energy system is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.
My pathway delivers energy security through limited energy imports* and a wide range of renewables balanced by some carbon capture and storage (CCS). As to cost, I deliberately haven’t chosen expensive measures like micro-wind and very high levels of domestic solar PV, and I’ve focused on energy efficiency and demand reduction which are almost always the cheapest ways to deliver secure energy at low cost. And of course, my pathway also meets the 80% emissions reduction target, with some headroom for increased reductions through greater energy saving, technological change or bioenergy-fired CCS if the science says this is needed.
More importantly, it does this while trying to avoid lasting harm to Britain’s wildlife and natural beauty. To do this, I’ve had to focus heavily on reducing consumption and balancing competing demands on the land. I don’t want to live in a 2050 where we have trashed the beauty, tranquillity and unique character of Britain’s countryside just so we can avoid insulating our homes, continue buying throwaway consumer goods, and keep taking cheap flights. At the same time, CPRE’s vision for the future of the countryside doesn’t take a ‘head for the hills’ approach to mitigating climate change so I’ve assumed that a greener form of heavy industry will still form a substantial part of the UK’s economy, even though this increases energy demand and emissions.
A number of caveats need to be made – the four options for each category forced me to take a number of black or white positions. For example, it would be better to have lower over-generation of electricity and less (but not no) CCS; to retain some of the better sited onshore wind the model assumes will be built by 2025 but not expand on this as in option 2; and to actually reduce energy demand by cutting air and car travel, neither of which is a choice in the calculator. And because the calculator can’t take account of the limited capacity of our landscapes to site intrusive infrastructure like onshore wind, pylons and large power stations, it risks producing pathways that are out of touch with reality. But these are precisely the sort of points which this debate is intended to raise. I hope that the pathway I’ve selected serves as an outline of what an energy future that tries to avoid compromising the natural environment might look like, rather than an inflexible plan for the future.
* Around a third which is similar to today’s levels – see Energy imports and exports for details.