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Energy technologies for the future

19 September 2016

The technologies exist now to deliver energy savings and emission reductions needed to reach climate targets set at COP21, according to the IChemE Energy Centre. This was the conclusion reached at a recent Low Carbon Summit, which took place at the BEIS Conference Centre in London.

The Summit venue was provided by the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), formed during the July UK Government reshuffle, and the event organised by the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) Energy Centre and the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN).

In his opening welcome, IChemE Energy Centre Chair, Professor Stefaan Simons, highlighted the importance of low carbon technologies: “The technologies exist now to deliver massive energy savings and greenhouse gas emission reductions. When taken together, the topics discussed during this Summit represent a pathway, which I believe can lead to a decarbonised energy system that can be realised immediately. These technologies will help us achieve the targets set at COP21. And the time has come for implementation.”

Delivering the opening address, CEO of the Energy Technologies Institute, Dr David Clarke, outlined his thoughts on achieving the targets set out in the Paris Agreement.  He placed the top priority on decarbonising electricity by 2030, followed by an acceleration of heat decarbonisation – retaining centralised grid systems but making them smarter, with the use of data and internet technology.

Clarke noted a number of challenges in achieving this, with emphasis on the increasing uncertainties surrounding UK energy policy and deployment. He said: “There are a few technologies out there that can and will shape the future of UK energy, and most of them are in the hands of the UK government. From a UK perspective failure is not an option; a political will is needed to deliver energy solutions.”

The talks that followed were evident of the range of low carbon technologies available, and the significant impact they could have on carbon emissions.

SUPERGEN Bioenergy Hub Director and University of Manchester Professor Patricia Thornley, revealed that bioenergy can provide 44% of primary energy demand and give carbon reductions in the electricity sector of 80 to 90%.

Tata Steel’s Manager of Energy Optimisation, Dr Chris Williams explained Industrial Waste Heat Recovery through a real-life case study. The steel industry produces some of the UK’s largest quantities of waste heat, and Tata’s significant capital investment has developed a strategy and methodology for utilising the wasted heat. The result has been an increase in onsite electricity generation by over 12 megawatt electric (MWe) and a saving of over 50,000 tonnes of indirect CO2 emissions each year.

Dan Sadler, Technical Advisor at Future of the Gas Networks, also presented a case study to showcase the capabilities of hydrogen. The H21 Leeds City Gate project has the ambition to convert the natural gas supply of Leeds to hydrogen power in a bid to decarbonise heat. If successful it will reduce carbon emissions by 73% and could be rolled out UK-wide.

Nuclear Industry Association Chief Executive, Tom Greatrex demonstrated that nuclear power had provided 60 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity in 2015, saving 49 million tonnes of CO2 emissions – the equivalent of taking 78% of the UK’s cars off the road.

He said:  “Industry and energy needs a much more mature discussion. Nuclear is not the only solution but must be considered if we are serious about emissions targets, energy security and reducing air pollution. We need less reactionary prejudice, and much more rational pragmatism.”

The Association of Decentralised Energy’s Head of Policy, Jonathan Graham, drew attention to combined heat and power in order to reduce the amount of waste heat in the UK, and commented: “Power stations, industry and UK cities collectively waste more heat than is used by every home in the UK.”

The subject of waste was the highlight of Professor Rob Holdway’s talk surrounding the circular economy. He said “If you are going to do energy policy and resource efficiency you need to put it into context. We must work more closely with manufacturers, to consider end-of-life procedure for products and establish quick wins that incentivise consumers to be more energy efficient.”

Other solutions discussed included carbon capture and storage from Tees Valley Combined Authority’s Mark Lewis, and carbon utilisation from the CEO and CTO of CCm Research Pawel Kislelewski and Peter Hammond.