Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Zero Carbon Britain 2030

This morning, I started reading the Zero Carbon Britain report co-ordinated by the Center for Alternative Technology (a long standing research and demonstration center for green technology in Wales).  The report is an integrated scenario for how Britain could reach carbon neutrality by 2030 (ie only 20 years from now).

At 368 pages the report is a serious chunk to digest but my initial reaction from reading the executive summary and skimming a few key chapters is to be quite impressed.  They take on all the major aspects of society (the building sector, the transport sector, land and food, power generation, etc), and produce an integrated scenario for how the whole thing could be transformed.  I haven't come across a comparably detailed integrated scenario for how a whole industrial country could be made zero net-energy before.  And there's an enormous amount of detailed and carefully referenced work here.

Some of the things they propose are seriously politically implausible (eg ending domestic aviation by 2030, and switching the auto sector entirely to car-share type schemes where people pay by the mile to use cars), but I haven't come across anything that seems technically impossible so far.  It's the job of green groups to come up with possibilities that are further out than mainstream consensus would accept, with the goal of moving the mainstream consensus.  And it does seem to me that the broad goal of maintaining a middle-class existence while being zero-carbon is achieved in this scenario (at least on an initial look).

I will try to go through some of the key chapters in future blog posts and see if I can find any material holes in the thinking.  In the meantime, I commend it to readers seriously interested in the practical aspects of solving the carbon emission problem.


Anonymous said...

Many thanks and I look forward to seeing your take on details of the report. I helped out with the energy modelling for this report and did the modelling for the previous zerocarbonbritain report (the Island Britain scenario) and the explicit goal of both reports was to avoid any loss of quality of life.

The one area we are sure to get knocked on is the reduction in meat consumption. Other than that we are talking about fewer personal cars than the previous report. That makes sense to me having looked into the embodied energy of electric car batteries a bit more. It will be a tough sell though, and makes the balancing of variable renewables through V2G a little harder.

Robert said...

" It's the job of green groups to come up with possibilities that are further out than mainstream consensus would accept, with the goal of moving the mainstream consensus."

AKA: The Overton Window

KLR said...

Thanks. Big Gav also has a post today on a study for Australia shooting for the same goal, by 2020 no less.

Alexander Ac said...

What would Vaclav Smil say to that?

Stuart Staniford said...

Vaclav Smil would say it will take a lot longer, and he's right. I think of the Zero Carbon Britain scenario as roughly "what we could do if everyone was an environmentalist". Since lots of the population doesn't care very much about these issues, progress will be much slower.