Welcome to the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC)'s Youth Advisory Panel (YAP)'s blog. The DECC YAP is a group of young people aged between 15 and 25 from all over the UK, with a wide-range of backgrounds, from academia to activism.

Our aim is to inform everyone and anyone about DECC's activities and likewise to help DECC understand and take into account the concerns of young people. We are a medium of consultancy and conversation. Much of our work looks at finding a 'Pathway to 2050', reviewing how energy with be supplied and used in the next four decades, so follow us and join us on the journey!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Energised to develop energy mix: the next meeting makes progress

Yesterday we had the second meeting of our formalised Youth Panel group! It was very exciting to begin to move forward with our plans for contributing to DECC's work on planning a suitable energy mix for 2050.

I'm Elizabeth - the UK Youth Climate Coalition's Government Liaison Officer. We kicked off by welcoming lots of exciting new people to the table (from Young Friends of the Earth, Scouts, British Youth Council, CPRE, BTCV, WWF and a Green Flag Eco-School), joining our existing panellists (UKYCC, NUS, Plan UK, People & Planet, Oxfam, UK Youth Parliament and Think 2050) - it is fantastic that Kirsty has arranged for us to have more people with us on our journey, which we know will prove to DECC the value of our group!

We were delighted that so many people had completed the survey in such a short space of time, and we looked through all the responses in depth. The findings were really interesting. When we go on our visits (more about that later) and consult with young people (and more about that later too) this will be really important to us so that we can plan our questions to allow us to establish the good and the bad of each type of energy (and there are a lot of types, seriously).

Then we had an amazing presentation from Dustin Benton of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. This really made us think. The CPRE's main purpose in life is to look at human intrusion into natural beauty - particularly the negative impact on 'tranquility'. The CPRE had done research in the North East proving that not only did people value tranquility, but a lot of human activity had a negative impact - people like calm, natural environments away from man-made structures, with landscapes, birdsong, peace, water, open spaces. They don't like noise, power lines, traffic, crowds of people.

And that was when Dustin broke it to us - that the existing power line network across England would have to grow as we build more power stations, and if you build power stations offshore (e.g. offshore wind turbines), you have to build power lines from the shoreline to the towns. We learnt about the difference between two different types of power line - HVAC and HVDC - AC going above ground (cheap although inefficient), DC going under the seabed (expensive but more efficient). So there was lots to think about there. His presentation also provoking thoughts on whether in a forty year plan we should include interconnectors - connecting different countries with the capacity to share energy - expensive but useful! And whether a project to collect solar energy from North Africa for European use could be appropriate ... or not.

But we did take some good news away, that early planning for offshore wind had included consulation with lots of different groups, and that areas had been picked which were likely to have a lower impact on people, birds and marine life.

It was very complex but really made us think. By this stage though, we'd been in our meeting for two hours and we needed some air, so we popped out to a corner of St James' Park, taking our vegetarian sandwiches and salads with us, and keep up the discussions we started with CPRE, and also considered the morals and ethics of buying energy from overseas. It's a tricky one.

Our lunch hour passed really fast and before we knew it, we'd split into two groups. My group had a brilliant session with Andy Hix, a young entrepreneur running his own film editing company. He shared tips and tricks with us on using our Flipcams and editing them into something watchable - so when our report on energy pathways comes out in late autumn/early winter, we will be able to produce our own 10 minute video to go alongside it, featuring footage and interviews from our visits.

The two groups then switched, and it was suddenly onto the main business of the Panel for my group as we had our first look at the DECC 2050 Energy Pathway Calculator! (OK, some of the group had already seen it...) This is a really powerful tool that allows you to adjust different variables for the demand of power over the coming decades, and then assess what supply mix needs to be in place - including coal/CCS, nuclear, solar, wind, biomass, algae... It's still in a testing stage but the more feedback the better so go try it now at http://2050-calculator-tool.decc.gov.uk/ - leave your comments on this blog! The aim, of course, is to hit a 80% reduction in emmissions by 2050, and some of us did get carried away hitting that target at all costs as Jan from DECC talked us through the capabilities of the calculator. But it's a serious tool that does show exactly how difficult the task ahead is.

DECC have already prepared six pathways. But the Youth Panel will be visiting as many different types of power suppliers and power users as we can, and ahead of our report later this year, we will be creating our own two to three recommended energy pathways which we will be asking you to vote on. The winning pathway will go forward in our report as the young peoples' recommendation on the energy mix for 2050. But we do have to make it practical, and this will be one recommendation of many. Fingers crossed we can make it the best!

After a quick tea break, we talked a bit more about the arrangements for our visits, and then closed up with our final questions. We are going to begin driving forward the work to reach out into schools and universities, and hopefully we'll have more to say about a programme of visits to such insitutions soon! Kirsty was amazing throughout and is such an inspiration in making this happen. And to know we have the support of the wonderfully enthusiastic Charles Hendry MP - Minister for Energy - is fantastic as we know that our work will actually be recognised and listened to!

~ Elizabeth

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