Friday, 11 June 2010

Walking the walk?

I am pleasantly surprised at David Cameron's announcement committing the UK government to cutting its carbon emissions by 10% in the next 12 months, in line with the 10:10 campaign. His decision to publish the energy use of government headquarters, including the cabinet ministers, is very positive. Now we have a chance to see if they will "walk the walk".

The inclusion of the Energy Bill in the Queen's Speech, with its promise of an emissions performance standard (if it is set at the right level), and the steps towards development of a "smart grid" are all VERY good.
The pressing need to wean ourselves off oil continues to be vividly illustrated by the BP-financed disaster, Deepwater Horizon. But we MUST realise that our consumer-led and massively resource-heavy lifestyle cannot continue.

It is not a question of just "switching over" to electric cars and wind turbines. The recent report released by the Royal Academy of Engineering (www.raeng.org.uk) says that switching all the 30 million cars in the country to electric would drain the National Grid of around one fifth of its capacity and increase current electricity demand by 16%. With the 70GW grid running at nearly full capacity, it would require building the equivalent of 6 large nuclear power stations or 2000 wind turbines to meet demand. With most electricity production in the UK still being generated using gas and coal then how much difference will be made?

Of course, this is looking at it a little bleakly, if the "smart grid" becomes fact and small-scale generators are able to feed in power to the grid, then extra demand on the grid may be met, at least in part.
This is an area where the potential for genuine community-owned decentralised power generation, with the added value of building local resilience, has real possibility.

I suppose the question is whether we can all "walk the walk" and reduce our impact enough to survive.

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