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.

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.

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.