Last issue of LH contained an introduction to funding sources for renewable energy, and information on exactly what a Decentralised Energy (DE) system is. To quickly recap, this is where energy is generated close to the point of use, such as used in Woking, Surrey. The 2/3 of energy that would normally be wasted as heat by a regular power station is captured, and used. This is called Combined Heat and Power (CHP), and massively increases the energy efficiency, leading to a corresponding massive decrease in the carbon dioxide CO2 emissions from energy production. There are also small energy savings as electricity is not transmitted long distances on the National Grid, instead using small private wire networks.
Although there are working examples of this kind of system, and many effective small projects in the UK, central government have so far not shown significant support for DE. It has been left to local authorities, grassroots organisations and NGOs to push such an effective method of reducing CO2 emissions. When LH #14 was published the 2006 Energy Review had just come out and so was not included in the article, only the problems with the previous Energy Review were mentioned. So here is a brief update.
The 2006 Energy Review takes the stance that something drastically needs to be done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as we are now within sight of irreversible climate change. To do this the intention is to reduce CO2 emissions in the UK by 60% in 2050, with real progress towards this target been made by 2020. The sad fact is that this reduction may well not be enough to prevent catastrophic climate change; the government is still not listening well enough to the scientific community.
Within the Review one chapter is dedicated to DE (or distributed energy as it is referred to). Although the Review shows no real consideration for a complete switch from the current centralised system to a DE scenario in the near future, there is a lot of support for the technology. It acknowledges that DE can lower emissions, and costs. There is also the admission that carbon neutrality within new developments will not be possible without some level of DE.
Many problems currently face DE. A major one being the regulations governing the selling of electricity through private wire networks. Under current rules each private wire site can only supply 1MW, this is an unnecessary restraint.
To support DE, the government intends to remove regularity barriers in the planning and selling of electricity. VAT is to be reduced on all domestic CHP appliances and licensing on private wire networks is to be changed. Local authorities are now been encouraged to take appropriate action within their communities, and new powers are been given to the Mayor of London. Further proposals for local authorities are to be included within the Local Government White Paper.
I read about all these new reviews, studies and reports, but deep down I have my doubts. The Energy Review talks about DE in a positive light, but all it really does is set out some proposals and information on yet more reviews.
Review after review get published by the government. On one level it seems good there’s so much effort going into detailing exactly what should be done. On the other, it just feels like they are excuses for not doing what must be done, for sitting talking whilst everything falls down around us. There is most certainly progress made within the Energy Review, but when you look at the science of what’s happening to the Earth, it never feels like we progress fast enough.