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Transcripts: Shifting the focus video highlights

10 June, 2019

Reading time: 18 minutes

Nick Eyre: context for the report

My name is Nick Eyre, I’m director of CREDS and I want to talk a bit about the context for this report on shifting focus the role of energy demand in moving to a net zero carbon UK. The place to start is energy efficiency, energy efficiency has made a major contribution to the UK energy economy over recent years. Without the improvements in energy efficiency that we’ve had, we’d have a less secure energy economy, we’d have less affordable energy and we’d have much higher emissions of greenhouse gases. Going forward that’s going to still be an important factor, we must go on improving energy efficiency indeed we should increase the rate at which we improve our energy efficiency, but we also know we need more fundamental changes in a low energy transition.

We need to think about what we use energy for, what are the basic needs, the reasons that people use energy and how could they be changed and how will they change as we move through the energy transition. Do we need to use all the energy that we currently use for producing materials or can we recycle materials, reuse them, use other less energy intensive materials, do we need to travel as much as we do or are there ways that we can use IT, for example, to improve or substitute for mobility.

Our overall message is that the energy transition won’t just be a transition in the fuels that we use, it will be a transition in the way that we use energy and we can use that to change, to use less energy. We also need to think about the flexibility of our energy – when we use energy, particularly as we electrify our economy using variable sources of renewable energy like solar and wind, it will be important that energy demand can be more flexible and shift in time. As we electrify vehicles and heating, the scope for doing that increases, as we adopt smart meters and other digital technologies, again the scope for doing that increases. We need to change the regulations, the expectations of energy users in order to achieve this. Energy users will also be important in moving towards low-carbon fuels.

Of course a lot of energy demand can be electrified, we will see that with the electrification of light vehicles and a lot of heating systems, but some uses of energy will be difficult to decarbonise – using electricity in areas like freight transport, some space heating, aviation, some industrial processes – in these areas we may need alternative fuels such as hydrogen. A lot of thinking is going into how to produce those and have to those around, but we also need to think about how they will be used, they can be used efficiently, and how they can be used in a socially acceptable way. Thinking about decarbonised fuels from the point of view of users is going to be critical in the low-carbon energy transition.

Nick Eyre: main conclusions from the report

My name is Nick Eyre, I’m director of CREDS. I want to talk about the key conclusions that come from our report on shifting the focus. The overall conclusion is that we really need to put much more emphasis on thinking about energy demand as a key part of the low-carbon energy transition.

In theory, it’s possible to get to a low-carbon economy just by changing the fuels that we use, just by changing energy supply, but in practice if we don’t use energy more flexibly, if we don’t use less energy, and if we don’t use those carbon fuels in socially acceptable ways then we won’t get to a low-carbon economy. So we should be thinking about the low-carbon transition in a way that makes people’s lives better, in a way that gives us warmer homes, in a way that give us cleaner air, in a way that gives us better health, in a way that gives us better jobs, more secure jobs, and fulfilling jobs. This is an agenda that can be positive for ordinary people, can make our lives better. If we try to think about it as an agenda of doing less and making lives worse it won’t be successful, but we don’t need to do that, this can be part of a broad, sustainable, positive, economy.

There are huge implications for government. We need rapidly to see the right policies put in place, we know many policies that work that aren’t being used sufficiently in the UK. We also need to think long-term about the role of longer-term changes in demand, how government can encourage innovation, technological innovation, but also changes in business models, and social change in order to deliver that low-carbon economy.

So I think there are three ways in which government is going to have to change what it’s currently doing. The first is to introduce policies that are more effective and can reduce demand quickly. The second is to support innovation, innovation in technology but also in business models and the way that society operates, in our institutions. And the third, and perhaps the most important, is for government to lead a broader social change. Government can do a lot but it can’t do everything, we are all going to have to change the way that we live in a low-carbon energy transition, but government has a critical role in starting a national conversation about that, and in working with people to ensure that the positive benefits of a low-carbon energy transition are widely available and available to all society.

Tadj Oreszczyn: reducing energy demand from buildings

I’m Tadj Oreszczyn and I’ve been responsible partly for the buildings chapter. So, buildings are an incredibly important energy demand, it’s responsible for about a third of the CO2 emissions, but just as importantly it’s over half of the energy that we use during the winter period, the winter quarter, so the total amount of energy during the peak periods are dominated by buildings.

So in the past we have been very, very successful at improving the energy efficiency of our buildings. The total impact that has had on energy demand, however, has been limited because we’ve taken a large proportion of the benefits of this in terms of increased comfort, we use roughly three times the amount of heat, for example, in buildings that we used to in the past. So what are we going to do in the future. Well, in the future we have to reduce energy demand and CO2 emissions quicker than we have done in the past if we’re going to meet the climate change targets.

What do we need to do to achieve that? Well, we need to be really quite innovative in some of the things that we’re going to do, we need to be able to tackle some of the technologies that we’ve had for a long period of time but have just not had the uptake, and these are technologies like heat pumps, district heating, and solid wall insulation. In order to tackle those particular technologies we will need to have incentives in terms of regulation, but also incentives in terms of financial incentives to kick-start the market for these for mass deployment that we now need for this sector. We also have to prepare for a new age of energy efficiency where peak power becomes much more important, because buildings dominate that peak power we need to understand the impacts that efficiency has on that peak power demand of big buildings.

Then lastly, we need to make sure that the technologies that we do deploy en masse actually perform as well as they possibly can, and in order to support that then there’s a whole range of new technologies, the Internet of Things, and algorithms like artificial intelligence which can help us achieve and reduce that performance gap in the future. Thank you.

John Barrett: industry, materials & products

I’m John Barrett, and I was responsible for producing the chapter on materials and products which considers how we could transform UK industry to reduce energy demand. Currently UK industry accounts for about 16 percent of our overall energy demand, but of course we demand considerably more energy outside the UK to provide us with all our materials and products. In fact about half of our industrial energy is related to our imports and therefore we think it’s really important to both consider just for energy efficiency in the UK, but also consider materials and products and how we could consume them differently to reduce our emissions.

Historically, we see this as a technological problem where we will try and bring in new equipment, new kit to improve the efficiency of industrial processes. There are still opportunities left, but we must extend that to understand how we would change and use the output of industry, i.e. products which we consume in our households every day. This means that we could use them for longer, prioritising quality over quantity. It means that we could build things lighter, it means that we could in essence make sure that we are using everything that comes out of industry that required a lot of energy, to its maximum level of efficiency to reduce our emissions.

To do this we think that the UK government needs to extend this level of ambition for industry to help achievement a net zero future. This involves as I said the energy efficiency in industry, but it also involves the UK government working collaboratively across departments to recognise and realise the potential from using our materials and products better.

We believe that by combining the energy efficiency and resource efficiency agenda currently having responsibility in different government departments, the industry itself could potentially have significant reduction and a major contribution to achieving international climate goals. Finally we think it’s important to recognise the level of ambition required to achieve our emission reductions means at some point that lifestyle changes will be required, and that government has a responsibility to start up to date on how we would live differently to ensure a net zero future.

Jillian Anable: transport & mobility

Hi, I’m Jillian Anable, Professor of Transport and Energy at the Institute of Transport Studies at Leeds and I was involved in writing the transport mobility chapter for this report. So far in the transport sector we’ve really focused on the technological solutions, that is we’ve looked at the vehicles and we tried to make them more and more efficient, in particular transitioning over to alternative fuels, mostly electric vehicles. And there’s absolutely no question that we need to do that, that that is happening, the problem is that it’s not happening quickly enough, so we have looked at the problem in this report, taking evidence from a variety of different studies that all consistently say that if we want to contribute to the net zero obligation that we have through the transport sector, that we’ve got to both transition the vehicles over to electric or other alternative fuels, and we have to reduce the demand for travelling across the board, whether that’s passengers or freight, we really have to be more efficient with our transport system.

So what does that mean: it means that of late, that is in the last decade or decade and a half, we’ve consistently seen a change in the travel patterns of the younger generation, i.e. they haven’t been tending to get their driving licences and adopt a car at such an early age as their parents did, and where it’s possible for them they’re more prepared to use a variety of different modes of travel.

What we’re saying is we really need to understand that and we need to lock that in and encourage it, and make it possible, and something which people opt to do as a proactive choice. That means investing in alternative forms of transport but it also means that we have to look at having a target, as well as having a target for the uptake of electric vehicles which we say in the report also needs to be earlier, by the way, we also need a target for traffic growth and to think about increasing the adoption of electric vehicles while saying we’re also not going to increase traffic, we’re going to do both in unison. So we’re not just thinking about tailpipe emissions but actually thinking about the efficient use of the transport system at the same time.

Jacopo Torriti: electricity – making demand more flexible

I’m Jacopo Torriti and I co-authored the chapter on demand side flexibility. Demand side flexibility is largely seen as critical in the future transition to a net zero carbon economy. This is because if we have plenty of renewables in the system, the demand-side flexibility will enable higher responsiveness and this means reducing the cost of electricity generation, and better balancing of the grid, also taking advantage of smart solutions like energy storage and smart heat pumps. In the flexibility chapter of our report, we look at demand-side flexibility and particularly the proposition of a clean growth strategy report that demands high flexibility is a win win, and so we start by looking at the amount of flexible capacity which is foreseen for the future, noting that the clean growth strategy is not very ambitious in terms of targets and especially compared with previous reports in this area. We then look at what levels of demand-side flexibility are foreseen for the residential user, so through time of use diaries for instance and the clean growth strategy is not explicit at all in terms of how much flexibility might be coming from there, and who the winners and losers might be with regards to the implementation of time and use tariffs.

So we then come out with three main recommendations. First we think that the capacity market has been extremely ineffective at delivering demand-side flexibility, so now the government has the opportunity to stop and think about reforming the capacity market and this will include things like higher levels of demand-side response and storage, and secondly we recommend that the government carries out analysis to understand winners and losers from time-of-use tariffs, and there will be winners and losers and with the pricing settlement we need to ensure that the benefits of flexibility in terms of lower bills basically cover all types of end-users and the third recommendation is to for the government to come out with a single policy on demand-side response which facilitates higher levels of flexibility to the future.

Nick Eyre: using zero carbon energy

My name is Nick Eyre, I’m director of CREDS. I’m going to talk a bit about the chapter in the shifting focus report on zero carbon fuels. Clearly, how much energy we use is very important, but in the low-carbon energy transition we’re also going to have to move to a society where people use fuels that are zero carbon.

We’re already making progress with this, our economy is gradually becoming electrified using low carbon sources of electricity, and we expect this to continue with the electrification of vehicles and the electrification of much heating. But electricity can’t be used for everything, there are some areas like freight transport, some industrial processes, and aviation where we’re going to need to use different low carbon fuels, perhaps fuels like hydrogen. And a lot of work has gone into thinking about how hydrogen should be produced, stored, and transported, but we also need to think about how hydrogen and other low-carbon fuels will be used.

They need to be at a price that’s appropriate for users, they need to be affordable. They need to be socially acceptable in other ways and this means that we need to think about how those fuels are used as well as how they’re produced, stored, and transported. For example, if we want to decarbonise space heating of homes using hydrogen, we’re going to need to ensure that the hydrogen is used efficiently so bills are affordable, and we’re going to need to ensure that it’s safe, and that people accept and understand that it’s safe to do that.

Tina Fawcett: policy – delivering further and faster change in energy demand

Hello, my name is Tina Fawcett and together with colleagues I’ve been responsible for writing the chapter on policy and governance in the CREDS report. This is a chapter based on our existing research, looking to say what should the government be doing in terms of policy to help us meet the net zero carbon target and what can CREDS do in terms of research, how we can help.

I think our first point is really that we do need to learn from existing experience and what we’ve done previously in the UK, what different areas and regions and countries in the UK are doing, what our European partners are doing and internationally, but we need to go beyond that because if we want to make a major change, we’re going to need to do new things. So it’s not just about learning from best practice, it’s about developing new ideas. So to pick out three very specific things, the first thing I think we would say is that the UK government needs to work with the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and with local authorities to put things in place to enable them to take more action, cities want to do things, in Scotland in particular is moving ahead in some very interesting ways.

We need an enabling framework so that some places go faster and try things out and the rest of us can learn from that. The second specific thing is around institutions and delivery. The UK is quite unique in Europe in not having an energy these deliver energy policies and energy efficiency and energy demand policies, and we would suggest that the government has another look at that.

There are new hybrid methods of delivering policy, it doesn’t have to be a rerun of what we have had before or an exact copy from elsewhere, but we do need strong institutions if we’re going to get delivery and implementation of a policy that we need. And I think the third thing really is the bigger picture, is that we need to start looking beyond energy efficiency, although that’s extremely important and other forms of demand change, we need to look beyond immediate win-win, because if we think about the 30-year scenario we’re now on to get to net zero, what some of the things we need to do now we’re not going to make sense now, they’re not going to be win-win now, but they need to be put in place so we can get where we need to be in the next 20 or 30 years.

So we need to start thinking about ideas like sufficiency, we need to start thinking about energy efficiency as a vital national infrastructure, we need to think about multiple benefits of energy efficiency, of different ways of framing the benefits to individuals and organisations, and for that we need we universities, we need organisations like CREDS thinking of new ideas, trying them out, talking to our stakeholders and developing the ways forward that means we can go beyond incremental change. Because we’re in a climate emergency, and incremental change is not going to be enough. We’re going to need to think bigger, reframe, think of new ways, find new ways of valuing the benefits of energy demand production, and that’s what we hope to help deliver in our part of CREDS.

Tim Foxon: digital society

Okay good morning, I’m Tim Foxon from the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex. So I was one of the co-authors of the introduction chapter, and co-lead for the digital society theme of the CREDS research programme. So we were interested particularly in the role of digital technologies and new business models in helping to reduce future energy demand, and contribute to significant carbon emissions reduction. Because some people argue that digital technologies can improve efficiency of the way services are delivered and hence contribute significantly to reducing energy demand, but in certain circumstances as we know, new technologies and new business laws can create new service demands which can potentially lead to rises in energy demand, so things like AirBNB and Uber which may lead people to travel more, or use cars more regularly compared with cycling or walking.

So I think the message is that digital technologies and new business models will be very important in the low-carbon transition but the way they develop is not automatic, and we need to ensure that we provide incentives so that the way digital technology and the new business models are rolled out is done in a way which contributes to environmental and social goals.

Banner photo credit: Erik Odiin on Unsplash

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