ZeroCarbonBritain 2030 CAT (2)
Creating electricity is easy. Within 6 hours, enough sunlight falls on the world’s deserts to meet the annual global power demand of 18000 TW hours. (1) It is even possible to generate enough electricity to power railway station displays by the footfall of commuters in the rush hour. The problems are ones of politics, the vested interests of fossil fuel transnational corporations and the commitment of governments to implementing the GATS and WTO rules.
New methods of creating electricity are invented every month but it has already been verified by the UN, and in particular by three detailed studies carried out by the German Aerospace centre on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, that with just existing technologies, Europe could have a 100% renewable power supply with costs similar to today’s costs and with the same levels of reliability without the need for nuclear or fossil fuels. (2)
The practical issues are ones of distribution via the construction of a High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) grid and storage or batteries. The grid could be constructed very quickly and a moderate upgrade of the existing grid would permit trading to begin even sooner. Storage of spare capacity is most easily achieved utilizing hydropower, where water is pumped up hill during peak electricity production and released as required to smooth out peaks in demand.
The Desertec proposals (1) utilizing parabolic trough solar thermal power are fully costed, relatively cheap to implement, more secure than the mega transmission lines of oil and gas, and have the additional capacity to producing 100000 cubic metres of de-salinated drinking water/day (200MW turbine). Approximately 90,000 square kilometres of the Sahara desert is included in the Mediterranean Solar Plan, which links concentrated solar power, wind, hydro, biomass and geothermal to produce a secure and reliable supply.
However, a number of other possible grids are available.
Chris Huhne is backing a North Sea/ Baltic grid, which incorporates geothermal from Iceland, wind and hydro from Norway.
However, it is clear that there is no justification for considering:
The Centre for Alternative Technologies (CAT) has produced plans to achieve net greenhouse gas emissions of zero by 2030. (3)
CAT criticised the 2050 Pathways Analysis (4) for not considering greater resource efficiency in transport and the building sectors. This fits well with the imperative that the Labour Party should be putting on a mass social housing building programme. These houses should be sustainable builds, which would create employment, reduce fuel poverty, reduce the poverty gap and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the same bracket, the Labour Party should be committing to a mass insulation programme of the existing housing stock, and the retrofitting and refurbishment of sub-standard housing.
In conclusion, the evidence exists that the UK can decarbonise quickly using existing energy technologies. The only part that seems to be missing is the political will to make it happen.