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!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Towards a Good Energy Future

Last week, the panel met Juliet Davenport, CEO and Founder of the 100% renewable electricity company ‘Good Energy’. In her inspiring talk, Juliet reminded us that renewable energy is also about energy security for the future. It was security of supply that led Sweden and Norway to promote renewable energy back in the 1980’s. By contrast the UK has a long way to go; the UK has 40% of the EU’s wind resource, but still has almost the smallest percentage of installed renewable energy out of any country in Europe!

There are arguments against all types of energy, for example the human cost of coal power is massive as miners often suffer from ‘black lung’ and severe health problems. If these social costs were factored in, we would see the true cost of the different forms of energy generation. This reminded me of our Panel report on the fairness of different energy options. Juliet reminded us that for wind power, planning is still a problem in the UK as it can take almost 3 years to get planning permission. By contrast, solar takes only about 3-4 months.

Wind power could be encouraged by community-owned wind farms which offer local residents a share of the benefits of having wind turbines nearby. They could issue bonds or provide a local tariff so communities have a share of the cheaper electricity generated. Renewable energy is getting cheaper as fossil fuel prices continue to rise. Juliet suggested that wind turbine developers need to reach out to the local community, perhaps offering benefits such as a free electric mini-bus for elderly residents. Overall we need to make it easier for people to invest in renewable energy. Perhaps the launch of the ‘Green Investment Bank’ and the ‘Green Deal’ by the government next year will build on this opportunity?

We found it inspiring to meet a female head of an energy company in an industry that is often male-dominated. As part of our upcoming ‘women in energy’ project, some of us are planning to research this topic. Juliet told us she had not encountered any particular problems; but agreed there is a need to encourage more girls to study Physics and Maths to have the opportunity to work in the energy sector. In an inspiring closing comment, Juliet encouraged any young women interested in energy to “push yourself out of your comfort zone and take risks” – and to have a vision of “what we need to do” to get to a sustainable energy future.

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