Managing in a Changing Environment

Cotswold International Airport

I took this photo this afternoon at Cotswold International Airport which is near Cirencester. Yes it does exist and as you will see 747s can land there. The reason for the photo today, is that it is roughly 12 months since Covid 19 started to take hold of our attention. Would any of us have thought it would have led to the grounding and taking out of service of 747s? I doubt it.

What Covid has shown us, is that coping with change, let alone planning for it, is difficult. That our politicians are not very good with change. That lots of people are not very good at change because its not business as usual.

The journey to a net zero carbon global economy involves a vast amount of change for all of us, individuals, businesses and political systems from the local council to national governments and beyond. What coping with Covid should teach us, is that lots of people are not skilled in dealing with change. That some deny what is going on. It is highly probable that changing to net zero will produce many of the same issues as covid. If anyone tells you this will be easy, they haven’t thought about it or they have a vested interest they are protecting or they are dissembling.

Don’t underestimate the change that a net zero carbon economy requires.

© Chris Lenon and http://www.zerocarbonourchoice.com  2020-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and www.zerocarbonourchoice.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“Put a big fat price on carbon”: OECD chief bows out with climate rally cry.

Angel Gurria

This is the headline from a Guardian article. The article is an interesting spin on Gurria’s 15 years at the head of the OECD. I worked with him in BIAC from 2006 to 2012, he’s a nice person in my experience. But OECD hasn’t really taken the lead in pushing this agenda forward, perhaps constrained by the attitude of its biggest member, the US under both Obama and Trump.

I wrote a blog questioning why the OECD wasn’t working on the taxation of aviation and the tax subsidies which it enjoys.  “Why is the OECD not reviewing the taxation of aviation?” I’d asked insiders why the work wasn’t being done and they pointed to a lack of funding and “more important” projects.

The OECD is perfectly positioned to work on this subject. The zero rating of airline tickets and the exemption from fuel duty for airline fuel clearly sit within the OECD expertise. The issue of passenger duty also would fit. It is an obviously international issue in both tax and carbon.

So, if the OECD wants to “Put a big fat price on carbon”, why doesn’t it do this work on the taxing of a form of emissions which is often discretionary? On removing this carbon subsidy?

Instead that quote looks like a piece of greenwash. Do we want to put a big, fat price on all carbon? On domestic heating for instance? Or does the OECD lean towards taxation because it is part of their mandate, whereas regulation, which may be more suitable for some emissions, is more of a national competence.

© Chris Lenon and http://www.zerocarbonourchoice.com  2020-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and www.zerocarbonourchoice.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Welsh Ministers have laid regulations in the Senedd that formally commit Wales to legally binding targets designed to deliver net-zero carbon emissions within 30 years.

“The Welsh Government has also accepted the revised advice of the independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) that this goal is credible, feasible and – crucially – affordable.

Environment and energy minister Lesley Griffiths made it clear the administration would push to achieve zero-carbon sooner than 2050.

Latest analysis from the committee reveals that the most significant potential to accelerate emissions reductions in Wales is based on evidence suggesting greater abatement is possible in the industry and power sectors. This reflects the presence of a small number of high-emitting point sources in Wales, such as the Port Talbot steelworks.

However, the committee has also highlighted that the path to net-zero will be partly or fully driven by societal or behavioural changes.

“This means government, communities and businesses working together to change how we travel, shop, heat our homes, and switching to lower-carbon diets. In all cases, large reductions in the amount of energy and natural resources we use is necessary to achieve the targets,” said the government.

The committee assessment highlighted an accelerated shift in diets away from meat and dairy products, reductions in waste, slower growth in flights and reductions in demand for travel.

Improved energy and resource efficiency would be critical, stressed the committee. “By the early 2030s, all new cars and vans and all boiler replacements in homes and other buildings must be low-carbon – we expect largely electric.

“By 2040, all new heavy goods vehicles should be low-carbon. The South Wales industrial cluster (as well as other industrial sites in Wales) must either switch away from fossil fuels to low-carbon alternatives and/or install carbon capture and storage (CCS) at scale from the mid-2030s.”

Significant land use change will be involved, argued the committee. “A transformation is needed in Wales’s land while supporting Welsh farmers.”

By 2030, this should involve planting a cumulative 43,000 hectares of mixed woodland to remove CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow, increasing to a total of 180,000 hectares by 2050.

Another 56,000 hectares of agricultural land should shift to bioenergy production (including short rotation forestry) by 2050.

The committee’s report stressed that peatlands must be restored widely and managed sustainably. Low-carbon farming practices must be adopted widely while raising farm productivity.

Ministers have promised to set out how the government intends to deliver the country’s new net-zero ambition in its next All Wales Plan. This will be published in advance of the United Nations climate summit, COP26, which is being held in Glasgow later this year.

The Path to Net Zero and Progress on Reducing Emissions in Wales can be read on the Committee on Climate Change website. 

The themes in this analysis, echo those in “Zero Carbon Our Choice”, particularly “The committee assessment highlighted an accelerated shift in diets away from meat and dairy products, reductions in waste, slower growth in flights and reductions in demand for travel.

Improved energy and resource efficiency would be critical, stressed the committee. “By the early 2030s, all new cars and vans and all boiler replacements in homes and other buildings must be low-carbon – we expect largely electric.”

I hope that we can now begin an informed debate about how to achieve these goals which are demanding.

© Chris Lenon and http://www.zerocarbonourchoice.com  2020-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and www.zerocarbonourchoice.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Planning for net zero carbon

https://consult.rbkc.gov.uk/housing/draft-greening-supplementary-planning-document-spd/

RBKC in London is consulting on revising their planning guidelines to reach net zero carbon targets.

It is a fascinating, well written document and can be viewed through the link above. Here are some quotes from the document:

“We will aim to reduce the energy demand of new buildings. This will be done by optimising the design of buildings to take full benefit of sun orientation or natural ventilation for example. We are also setting high energy standards and will require ‘Net Zero carbon’ from all our major developments both residential and non-residential.”

“The Government’s recent Planning for net zero carbon Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution declares the phasing out of gas boilers. This section of the SPD provides guidance on using alternative means such as heat pumps and other forms 4 of renewable energy which are suitable in the Borough such as photo voltaic solar panels.”

“There is a clear recognition that development proposals need to consider the air quality given that the whole Borough is in an air quality management area. We will require Air Quality Assessments as part of major developments. Amongst other measures to improve air quality we support the provision of electric vehicle charging points. For all new developments where parking is proposed, applicants should seek to provide on-site charging points to accommodate the current and future requirements of the occupants. We also recognise the benefits of retrofitting charging points to existing parking spaces and support this.”

“Urban Greening: Urban greening describes the act of adding green infrastructure elements. Due to our dense built environment, green roofs, street trees, and additional vegetation are the most appropriate elements of green infrastructure. Urban Greening Factor: This is a land-use planning tool to help determine the amount of greening required in new developments.”

“Where an energy assessment demonstrates that the carbon savings required cannot be delivered on-site, the remaining regulated emissions will incur a charge in the form of a cash in lieu payment to the council’s carbon offset fund which will be secured through a legal agreement. The council has adopted the Mayor’s current carbon offset price. For all major developments the payment required is based on the nationally recognised ‘Zero Carbon Hub’ price per tonne of carbon dioxide of £60, offset over 30 years. At present, this gives an overall price of £1,800 (£60 x 30 years) per tonne of carbon to be offset. The tonnes of carbon that will need to be offset should be clearly set out in the applicant’s energy strategy.”

I think these quotes demonstrate how far we have come in a few years. The concepts and the type of framework described in the document needs to be adopted by all councils in the UK, and elsewhere. The consultation is about the built environment and infrastructure, but it demonstrates the changes needed in domestic heating and motor transport within this. Heat pumps and electric charging points will be key to this strategy.

I think these quotes demonstrate how far we have come in a few years. The concepts and the type of framework described in the document needs to be adopted by all councils in the UK, and elsewhere. The consultation is about the built environment and infrastructure, but it demonstrates the changes needed in domestic heating and motor transport within this. Heat pumps and electric charging points will be key to this strategy.

Business is responsible for less than 50% of UK emissions

Source : The Guardian

In “Zero Carbon Our Choice”, I argued that while many people think that achieving zero carbon is the responsibility of government and business, in fact it is impossible without a change to the choices which we as consumers make.

Using the 2018 final statistics as summarised in “2018 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Final figures 4 February 2020 National Statistics” as the basis for this. “In 2018, 28% of net greenhouse gas emissions in the UK were estimated to be from the transport sector, 23% from energy supply, 18% from business, 15% from the residential sector and 10% from agriculture. The rest was attributable to the remaining sectors: waste management, industrial processes, and the public sector. The land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector acted as a net sink in 2018 so emissions were effectively negative.”

My argument is that we need to analyse these figures to look at who is responsible for the emissions by the choices they make?

On this basis, the emissions of energy supply (23%)  – mainly electricity generation – are decided by government decisions and regulations. It was government dictat which stopped coal use in power generation by imposing a cost penalty on coal burnt in power stations. These emissions are not business emissions as although business is an end user, like we the consumer, they do not determine the power mix of power generation, it is government regulation and pricing mechanisms which do.

18% from business is business’s responsibility.

28 % from transport. “Road transport is the most significant source of emissions in this sector, in particular passenger cars; and the changes which have been seen over the period were heavily influenced by this category. Figure 5 shows how the volume of traffic on the roads has changed over time in Great Britain, which reflects the trend seen for the UK. Motor vehicle traffic volumes have generally increased throughout this period, other than a fall seen between 2007 and 2012 following the recession.”

56% of transport emissions relate to passenger cars, so even if one assumes that all the other transport emissions are business then 12% of total UK emissions are business transport emissions but 16% are public emissions, from our choice to drive ICE vehicles.

15% from the residential sector “The residential sector consists of emissions from fuel combustion for heating and cooking, garden machinery, and fluorinated gases released from aerosols and metered dose inhalers. It is estimated to have been responsible for around 15% of UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, with carbon dioxide being the most prominent gas for this sector (96%). The main source of emissions from this sector is the use of natural gas for heating and cooking.”

These are not business emissions. Again, these are emissions from our choice to use carbon fuels in our homes. There are roughly 27 million homes in the UK, the government has a target to install 600,000 heat pump systems per annum. At this rate, we will still have carbon heating in 2066 and nearly 10 million UK homes will still have carbon heating by 2050. To put this in perspective in 2017, 20,000 heat pump systems were installed.

10% Agriculture. If one considers agriculture to be a business, then these emissions are business emissions. But half these emissions arise from the production of meat products. One can argue that again these emissions arise as a result of the choice which we the consumer makes to eat meat and therefore that “business emissions” in agriculture are 5% of the total.

2% from industrial processes is a business responsibility.

2% Public sector is not a business responsibility.

5% Waste management (mainly landfill). At least half of this is from food waste in landfill. So, I would suggest business is responsible for 2% of these emissions at most.

Land use is negative 2-3% mainly from forestry.

Using this basis, business is responsible for the emissions from total UK emissions of business 18%, business transport 12%, Industrial processes 2%, waste management 2% , a total of 34%. If agriculture is included this increase to either 39% or 44% (depending on how meat production emissions are treated).

Consumers are responsible for emissions from private transport 16%, residential 15%, waste 3%, a total of 34%.

Government is responsible for Energy supply 23% and public sector 2%, a total of 25%

This doesn’t allocate the negative land use of 2-3%.

Using these UK numbers, business is responsible for (and can control and reduce) under half of the UK emissions. It does not control the emissions of Energy Supply, (even if it is a part end user like consumers) nor of the public sector nor of consumers themselves.

A recent poll showed that 67% of UK respondents thought the government should do more about zero carbon. What these figures show is that those respondents need to do more about their own emissions if net zero carbon, is to be achieved. Buying electric cars, using non carbon heating for their homes, minimising food waste in land fill and probably eating a lot less meat are all decisions we need to make. And I haven’t included emissions from flying.

Net zero carbon is about our choices as well as government action.

© Chris Lenon and http://www.zerocarbonourchoice.com  2020-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and www.zerocarbonourchoice.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

London Electric cabs – Investment Cost

London Electric cab charging – Source The Guardian

I talked to a London cab driver about his electric cab recently. It costs £60,000 compared to £40,000 for a diesel cab. He gets 70 mile range between charges and charges the cab at home and then in London as he drives around, but hopes the range will extend. He was very happy with it, and saw the environmental benefits of electric. He was considering solar panels to help the charging with green electricity.

The driver told me he was from Somalia originally. I thought that he could see issues that many of us do, but we don’t spend their own money on. I’ve recently written about air source heat pumps and receive a plethora of comments about the capital cost compared to a gas boiler. About how difficult it is to do this, to invest in an air source heat pump, from a forum which promotes Zero Carbon Britain. There is something wrong here, people advocate the change to zero carbon but they don’t think about how it is to be paid for, or they think that someone else will pay. Someone else won’t pay, there isn’t a money tree for these investments, we will pay even if the government provides financial support. Instead of assuming magic economics, we need a serious debate about how the investments to achieve zero carbon will be paid for and we all need to be transparent about the scale of the total investment.

How many of us will personally invest £60,000 in green infrastructure or have done? And yet a London cab driver, originally from Somalia, is prepared to – actions speak louder than words and the choices we make are key to a transition to zero carbon.

© Chris Lenon and http://www.zerocarbonourchoice.com  2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and www.zerocarbonourchoice.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The limitations on Solar electricity generation in the UK

Enso Solar Energy panels

I have followed Enso Energy Solar whose business model is to construct solar farms around grid substations in the UK. Unlike other connections to the grid this allows them to agree a contract with the grid and then assemble the land package for the solar farm around the substation. It is an astute business model.

In looking at their project pipeline two things struck me, first and no surprise is the length of the time for the planning process to gain permission for the solar farm.

The second issue was the power output per acre of the farms. These are state of the art solar farms with panels which move with the sun during the day to maximise solar collection. They also incorporate battery storage at the substations to maximise the usable electricity from solar generation to store electricity and match with demand.

As an example of the capacity, a 300 acre solar farm in South Oxfordshire is rated at 50 MW and 72000 MWH, powering 19,000 homes.  It is interesting from this to extrapolate the acreage required for solar farms to make a significant contribution to UK power generation. On a per acre basis this means 240 MWh and 63 homes. So, if we just consider homes, with 25 million homes in the UK Solar would need nearly 400,000 acres which is roughly the area of Surrey.

What I think this shows (and what I described in my book Zero Carbon Our Choice) is that the competition for land to meet zero carbon targets will pose some real challenges. Renewables, by definition, need an interest in land, a site. The land required for tree planting, solar, onshore wind, hydro and biomass is significant. The UK, like other countries, needs a policy framework to decide on these changes in land use if these technologies are to make a significant contribution to emission reduction.

© Chris Lenon and http://www.zerocarbonourchoice.com  2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and www.zerocarbonourchoice.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“Planet of the Humans”

Judge for yourself

I watched the film “Planet of the Humans” on you tube where it is still available. Its made by Jeff Gibbs.

As the photo shows it has been savaged by green advocates as being inaccurate and indeed some of the passages in the film could benefit from more up to date data. Mr Gibbs has been attacked despite his long involvement in environmental causes which have resulted in him being honoured by the United Nations Global 500 Roll of Honour.

The review by Pete Bradshaw in the Guardian (22 April 2020) makes interesting reading.

Big Oil and its corporate and banking representatives have, according to this film, found a way to rebrand themselves as green or greenish, to use the green movement for their own ends, and to get their mitts on the huge subsidies that taxpayers around the world are handing over to anyone claiming to be developing renewable energy resources, which turn out to be the same old fossil-fuel entities in different packaging.

Solar panels and wind turbines? These provide no energy when there is no sun or wind and degrade after only a few decades, says Gibbs. And in any case they need a lot of fossil fuels in their manufacture: silicon, cobalt, silver, graphite, rare earths – and of course coal. The same goes for manufacturing storage batteries. Factories claiming to have gone “beyond coal” again and again turn out to be relying on natural gas. Corporate behemoths such as Apple make spurious claims for their energy usage. But how about the ultra-fashionable new “renewable” energy source: biomass or wood-chips? This is basically a colossal logging industry that requires a lot of fossil fuel energy to harvest and transport the material. As Gibbs’ interviewees point out, you might just as well as burn the fossil fuels in the first place. And it is laying waste rainforests and areas of natural beauty.

This says Gibbs, is the queasy merger of environmentalism and capitalism.”

The focus on biomass in the USA is interesting, and I have questioned the benefits of using woodchip from the US (from felled trees) to fuel Drax power station in the UK. Equally the call by financiers for government funding of the investments that they want to invest in, is worrying. Better to allow a market system to apply complemented by forms of carbon pricing to price the externalities of carbon.

I worry that there is a resistance to engage in a debate about how economies reduce their emissions and the real cost of the mechanisms to achieve this. Simply vilifying anyone who questions the credentials of green investments will not lead to a roadmap which reduces emissions in a realistic and cost effective way.

I suggest you watch the film and make up your own mind. I’m not endorsing the film, but the questions posed should be addressed not merely denied.

© Chris Lenon and http://www.zerocarbonourchoice.com  2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and www.zerocarbonourchoice.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Coal – Germany and the UK – How the German Greens are increasing emissions

Dattlyn 4 Coal Power station

Last week saw two announcements about coal power generation.

In the UK, no coal was burnt generating power for a continuous two month period.

In Germany, a new coal power station opened.

This may seem surprising, that Europe’s largest economy is opening coal powered power plants, but the reason is the need for baseload power as more power generation comes from intermittent renewables.

In the UK, that baseload comes from nuclear and gas. But in Germany it is from coal because nuclear is being phased out, as a result of Green Party pressure within the government. So, due to Green opposition to nuclear, Germany’s emissions will stay high and may increase as the use of coal continues for the next twenty years at least.

A bizarre outcome. And until power storage is increased dramatically to store renewable electricity, the issue of baseload will continue. Is it really better to use coal rather than nuclear?

© Chris Lenon and http://www.zerocarbonourchoice.com  2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and www.zerocarbonourchoice.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Electric Cars – New cars versus old

In making a decision about buying a new electric car, we are sold the idea that this will reduce emissions. Obviously, it will reduce emissions from driving (if the electricity used is from a non carbon source). But a study claims that the carbon emissions from the car’s production is much higher for electric than internal combustion engines:

“The results reveal that the CO2 emissions from the production of an EV range from 14.6 to 14.7 t, 59% to 60% higher than the level of an ICEV, 9.2 t.“

This larger carbon footprint for producing the car is primarily due to the carbon cost of battery production. And the heavier the car, the larger the battery and hence the carbon cost and as my previous blog showed we are buying heavier cars than we did due to our love of “fully loaded with gadgets” cars (look at the features on a typical SUV).

So, over the life cycle of an electric car, there is a longer payback period before the carbon benefits of driving arise. This poses the question, should we be considering converting existing ICE cars to electric cars, particularly if the weight of those original cars is lower and the battery needs therefore smaller?

There are businesses which convert existing cars to electric and there are conversion kits supplied by some of the major producers (I don’t have a financial interest in either).

Conversion is a small, local business. Its not promoted by the motor industry, but does it make sense in sustainability terms if the environmental costs of producing the new electric car are deferred and the battery requirements of the car are smaller? And should the regulatory regime to convert cars to electric be reviewed so that this is not a barrier to conversion?

© Chris Lenon and http://www.zerocarbonourchoice.com  2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and www.zerocarbonourchoice.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.