Amongst the political upheaval, the adoption of the 5th Carbon Budget by Amber Rudd on June 30th, has gone somewhat under the radar. The carbon budgets are contained within the 2008 Climate Change Act which require that carbon emissions are reduced to 80% of the 1990 levels by 2050.
The 5th carbon budget specifically covers the period 2028-2032 and requires a 57% reduction in carbon emissions (from 1990 levels) by the end of that period. Unfortunately, the UK Energy Policy is a multidimensional problem. In order to facilitate the reduction in carbon emissions, the UK will cease to burn coal for power generation by 2015 with capacity replacement being provided by renewables and by gas.
The ongoing uncertainty on the next generation of nuclear reactors, generally and Hinckley Point in particular could well mean that start up of ‘new’ nuclear may well be delayed to 2030 and beyond. That all points to potential power supply/demand imbalance, especially when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. It s currently difficult to see how wind turbines and solar can replace coal new nuclear delay let alone a turning down of combined Cycle Generation Turbines (CCGT). Indeed, the only current solution is to build more CCGT in the short to mid term whilst renewable technology increases and costs decrease.
So, what to do? On the one hand demand reduction is a laudable and sensible way of reducing supply/demand deficits but realistically it can only go so far in terms of interruptible supply and overall energy efficiency. But when it gets cold, people like to be warm and have the lights on so a more pragmatic approach is required. Ultimately Government and Society live in a Energy Trilemma, that is the balance and inter-relationship between (1) Energy affordability (2) Climate Change and (3) Energy Security. The supply side is complex from an economic, social (fuel poverty)and geopolitical perspective.
Fossil fuel (gas) will almost certainly play a part in the transition of domestic heating to a decarbonised world in the longer term, the sheer scale of the transition is a major obstacle. The main issue is that the vast majority of houses to be converted from methane to zero carbon are already built, so the issue is how to engage a major national domestic power retrofit. It’s been done before: The transition from UK town gas in the 60’s and 70’s to North Sea Natural gas was successfully completed. New technologies such as hydrogen reformation from methane (as proposed by Northern Gas for the City of Leeds) are possible in principle but still use fossil fuel based.
The Minus7 hybrid solution is unique in offering net zero cost, net zero carbon heating to Britain’s homes. It is unique and (a) it is affordable (b) it produces no net carbon and (c) it is the most secure energy source of all. In other words the Mius7 solution is the answer to the Energy Trilemma highlighted above. By reducing the quantity of methane used for heating of homes, more of the precious methane molecule can be transformed to plastics, medicines, cosmetics, fertilisers and even of wind turbine blades.
The sensible solution to the energy trilemma is a balanced strategy incorporating baseloaded nuclear, baseloaded renewables and ‘balancing’ gas to bridge the power supply demand gap. Minus7 is a brilliant solution to domestic heating, ticking all the energy trilemma boxes and also acting, at scale as a energy storage modulation tool. By harvesting energy day and night down to temperatures of -7ºC, Minus7 technology should play a significant part in the UK energy revolution and the ultimate displacement of methane s a domestic energy heat source. This can be achieved in isolation from world events (and indeed UK political upheaval) and increasing fossil fuel geopolitics and could be part of Government energy policy.