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, 18 July 2011

Scottish National Discussion Days

In early July as part of the Scottish Government National discussion days 'Low Carbon Scotland' campaign- YoungScots hosted a collaborative event with different youth groups from around Scotland. I was honoured to be asked to co-host this event; as a Department of Energy and Climate Change Youth Advisory Panelist and as UKYCC Government Liaison for Scotland.
By morning the new Scottish Minister for Climate Change, Stuart Stevenson joined in on the discussion. He genuinely open armed the youth perspective reiterating a need for a long term strategy for tackling Climate Change that exceeds beyond a short term governmental lifespan. A strategy that can only logically be youth led.
The Local Investigation Teams represent urban, semi-urban and rural regions of Scotland and have been looking at different elements within Climate Change.
The teams came from Balfron High School, Rathbone Training and Lochgilphead Joint Campus and all used film to communicate the impact of Climate Change on their local communities. I was astounded by the end product from all those involved and the creativeness used to portray their individual messages.

The afternoon took on another flavour and while the expert panel; Minister Stewart Stevenson, Fiona Page, Catriona Chalmers, Angus Duncan and Ian Williams gave critique the highlight for me was the roundtable discussions. There was mixed opinion between the groups. The discussions, I believe, even started to make the pessimists consider their own energy use The day ended with ‘Top 3 Action Points’ in relation to what they the teams could do to tackle Climate Change, and what barriers they might face in doing this.
The teams cast votes throughout the day sharing their opinion on Climate Change and the results alongside the Scottish Government survey will be available in August this year.

Grabbing the Ministers attention is only half the battle. If we truly want to meet our Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 then we need to align and unite all young people.
This YoungScot event stood testament to this. The event kept young people at the heart of the debate with young representation on the expert panel, young presenters and creatively capturing the top actions of the day by cartoon.
The messages were relevant and this simplicity opened up Climate Change to a wider young audience.

If you would like to know more about YoungScot please follow link to their website http://www.youngscot.org/
If you would like to know more about Graeme's wonderful cartoons http://www.ogilviedesign.co.uk

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Keeping The Lights On: How will Britain transform its electricity market?

This week members of the youth panel attended the official launch of DECC’s White Paper on Electricity Market Reform (EMR) and the Renewables Roadmap- the government’s strategy to transform the UK’s electricity market by 2020. Here’s what we found out:

Over the next few decades, our country faces MASSIVE challenges in supplying us with electricity how and when we need it. [Lest we forget, that the UK must meet its EU targets of producing 15% of all energy from renewable sources by 2020 AND reducing our carbon emissions by 80% by 2050]. So, we were pretty hopeful that this eagerly awaited document would clearly map out the road to low-carbon energy heaven!

Overall, EMR aims to revitalise the UK electricity market, by encouraging a wider range of investors to provide up to £200 billion for improvements by 2020. We desperately need this investment to: revamp our old power stations, build shiny new renewable energy centres and make sure our electricity is distributed across the country efficiently over the foreseeable future.

Not to mention, that the more £££ invested in the UK market, the lower electricity prices could eventually be for consumers.. sounds good to us! This could also lead to more competition between energy providers to see who will be in the ‘energy mix’, with low-carbon technologies - like onshore wind and Carbon Capture & Storage(CCS)- given more financial support, and a chance to thrive.

The government believes that they have created the best possible plan to bring about real progress whilst addressing some of the concerns that many people have over how exactly the changes will happen. Any changes to our electricity market must consider DEMAND for electricity (which will continue to rise in future), AFFORDABILITY for consumers and ENERGY SECURITY (ensuring adequate supplies of energy now and in future) and DECARBONISATION (using way less fossil fuels and way more low-carbon sources of energy).

Key features of EMR strategy will be:

  • The Carbon Price Floor: Setting a (higher) price on carbon, that will make investment in low-carbon technologies more cost effective and therefore increasing the incentive to invest in renewable energy now.

  • Feed in Tariffs with Contracts for Difference: Additional long-term, fixed level payments would be made to energy providers for selling their electricity, as long as it is sold at a reasonable price to consumers. This guarantees the energy provider a profit, but also keeps prices from spiralling. Consumers could receive payments back from the provider IF prices rise above the agreed level.

Other interesting points from the White Paper launch:

The Emissions Performance Standard (EPS) limits the amount of carbon dioxide that any fossil fuel plant can emit for each unit of energy they produce. This will be set at 450g CO2 per kWhr- unless the new plant is fitted with CCS technology, and this level will not be allowed to change in the future.

DECC officials suggested, that no new unabated coal power stations should be part of this strategy. However, the plan clearly shows the UK government is prepared to go it alone and will commit strongly to developing CCS (for coal and possibly gas power stations) as a big part of the transformation. By 2020, they could invest up to £1 billion in this technology, through projects across the UK. So, this means we will be living with coal-fired power in at least some shape or form, as a ‘transitional energy source’, according to the Secretary of State.

We were also delighted to hear from DECC that as part of the transformation, they will aim to make it easier for communities to take control of their energy supply – producing their own electricity, in their own way. Otherwise known as Microgeneration, this would potentially mean much smaller scale, community-owned electricity production in some areas.

Both Chris Huhne and Charles Hendry (Minister for Energy) seemed hopeful that lesser known low-carbon technologies such as Anaerobic Digestion, Bio-energy and Onshore Wind will also be able to play a much greater role in the energy mix, in the near future.

The minister also reaffirmed his commitment to TRAINING AND SKILLS DEVELOPMENT in addition to the above measures. The UK obviously needs a whole new workforce or enthusiastic, highly skilled people to make the energy revolution happen..

Bring on the Green Jobs!

The youth panel will be looking further into all of these plans over the coming months, through our work with the CCS and Land Based Renewables teams in DECC..watch this space!


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.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Carbon Capture and Storage

The United Kingdom needs to reduce its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, creating energy from renewable sources is not enough to meet these high targets. However the idea of CCS can provide an effective route that can dramatically reduce CO2 produced in the air from the various pollution sources.

It is argued that without adopting the CCS initiative the UK would need to build between 5-7 Nuclear power stations or 13,000 wind turbines in order to match the current demand for energy. Energy security has never been more important, where some supplies are being affected by political whims of one country towards another (Eastern Europe to name one). Thus it is in the UK’s interest to create as much energy as possible where the government can ensure its stability and ensuring long term security.

The ethical question is an interesting but an important one to note, the question being why should we take action when countries like China are building more coal stations per year than we can reduce? The important point is that China is still a developing nation and will become the largest user (using 27%) of the world’s coal. China although polluting heavily, is one of the biggest spenders on green technologies, there is a lot to be seen yet in where China is seen to improve its Carbon footprint over the next decade. The fact that the UK is leading the way in such initiatives can provide more job security as more research can pave way to new opportunities by where the UK could be the first and thus able to export new ideas. The UK already exports various types of marine energy, and where it may improved via revenue created from exporting such technologies .

The main aim of CCS will be to capture at least 90% of emitted fumes and store underground 700-5000m under the North Sea, filling the empty areas left where oil had been taken. The storage of carbon will continue to be held offshore to address any fears of safety to the populace. Storage facilities have a life of 100 years where after this time it is hoped better technologies will be in place. The carbon will be stripped from other chemicals via a chemical solution wash and captured for transportation to the offshore storage areas. Storing Carbon can prove to be expensive and dangerous, but it needs to be done to meet EU Law.

There are many arguments against CCS which suggest that the process is an easy way out in meeting targets. The argued lack of efficiency can be noted, the process of Carbon storage consumes a third of the energy the plant produces in the first place. The cost is another important issue and the costs of the process does not necessarily outweigh the benefits, but it is a cost that has to be applied in order to address the Carbon problem the UK faces but is also an opportunity for the UK to lead the way and export new initiatives.