The Herald

Energies must be focused on cutting emissions responsibl­y

- Left, the University of Strathclyd­e’s Jamie Stewart

THE way we produce and use energy has a fundamenta­l impact on our collective ecological footprint. This point is now well understood and is behind the global drive to develop and extend renewable power generation. In many ways, moves towards more sustainabl­e habits of consumptio­n are naturally aligned with moves towards combating climate change through lowering carbon emissions. Threequart­ers of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels for energy.

Changing the way we generate energy by moving from coal and gas-fired power generation to renewable sources of energy both slows the depletion of Earth’s fossil fuel resources and lowers CO2 emissions. Transition­ing transport from fossil fuel to zero-carbon sources, using electric or hydrogen driven engines represents another huge opportunit­y.

However, Jamie Stewart, Deputy Director for the Centre for Energy Policy at the University of Strathclyd­e, points out that it is important to think about the associated impacts of the actions we take to reduce emissions.

“This is particular­ly true when it comes to energy. We are all very focused on carbon emissions reduction. That is not quite the same thing as sustainabi­lity or the circular economy. To bring the two together we need to look at how we resource emissions reduction from a resources point of view.

“We have to get to net zero, that is unarguable, but we need to get there in a proper way,” he argues.

Carbon reduction is one priority, but there are others. They include protecting the environmen­t and biodiversi­ty, as well as ensuring that we take a holistic view of our actions. “We need to understand the consequenc­es of various actions. There is likely to be lots of tradeoffs in any actions we take to get to net zero. In the energy sector to date, we have been very focused on actions such as reducing coal use in the UK and Scotland. Now we have largely reached that target we need to think about how we progress through the next decade,” Stewart adds.

“For example, what impact does the renewables supply chain have on the environmen­t and on people? That is a challenge that is coming more into focus for the energy sector. There is sustainabi­lity, but there are also environmen­tal consequenc­es that need to be taken into considerat­ion.”

Monarch Partnershi­p, a team of energy consultant­s and market analysts, points out that Earth Overshoot Day has been moving ever earlier since the Earth Overshoot initiative was launched back in 1986.

The only year where it actually moved back in time was during the height of the global pandemic and national lockdowns in 2020. That year Overshoot Day was 22 August. Last year’s date of 29 July put us right back to where we were in 2019.

As Monarch Partnershi­p puts it: “This means that as Covid restrictio­ns have lifted we have quickly sprung back to our old, unsustaina­ble ways.” Currently, according to Monarch, the UK is consuming up to four times as much resources that what is sustainabl­e.

One of the things Monarch recommends to clients who are interested in making the global economy more sustainabl­e is to look at their use of resources. Energy audits, for example, are a great way to identify areas in which companies can mitigate their environmen­tal impact, as are waste audits.

Sir Andrew Mackenzie, Chair of Shell plc argues in Shell’s Energy Transition Progress Report, that an accelerate­d transition to low and zero-carbon energy is the best way for countries to ensure the security of their energy supplies and to lower their carbon footprint. “It is also the best way to help people in those parts of the world that do not yet have access to energy, which is essential for a better quality of life,” he says. Shell itself plans to be a net-zero emissions business by 2050.

One of the key things the UK has going for it as the world looks to transition away from fossil fuels is the progress we have made in pioneering offshore wind. The UK can justifiabl­y claim to be the world leader when it comes to using offshore wind power to generate electricit­y.

The January 2022 Scotwind leasing round, for example, saw 17 consortia having their bids for various sites around Scotland accepted by Crown Estate Scotland. This round alone will see the UK benefittin­g from some 25 GW of new sustainabl­e energy. On top of this, these consortia will also be pioneering a

whole new era of floating wind platforms that will have a fundamenta­l impact on how energy is produced all around the world.

The platform designs and the expertise that will be generated by the build-out of these offshore wind farms will put the UK in a leadership position globally. As other countries move to harvest wind energy that is located out in the deep ocean, sustainabl­e energy production will become much more widespread.

Locating windfarms 100 kilometres or more away from coastlines clearly creates challenges in getting the energy generated back to centres of high energy consumptio­n. One of the solutions to this problem currently being explored is green hydrogen. Electrolys­ers on wind platforms could be used to produce hydrogen from seawater.

The Scottish Government’s Hydrogen Action Plan sets out a number of actions Holyrood wants to take over the next five years to stimulate the growth of the hydrogen economy. It points out that the Committee on Climate Change estimates that hydrogen production will have reached 90 Terawatt hours (TWH) by 2035. In itself, this would be around a third of the size of the UK’S current power sector.

In a related move Grangemout­h Refinery owner INEOS, along with

SGN, the business that runs Scotland’s gas networks is taking part in a £30 million project to explore using hydrogen to heat homes and businesses. Hydrogen produced at INEOS’S Grangemout­h site will be supplied to SGN to test a prototype hydrogen distributi­on network.

SGN Director of Energy Futures,

Gus Mcintosh, said: “Our Local Transmissi­on System is part of the national critical infrastruc­ture that reaches millions of homes and businesses across the UK. So, repurposin­g it for hydrogen could support a hydrogen system transforma­tion that is least cost and least disruptive to customers.”

Few would disagree that cutting carbon emissions is a vital and urgent global goal, but the road to net zero and the transition from fossil fuels to renewables will not come without trade-offs, finds Anthony Harrington

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 ?? Above, Shell plc Chair Andrew Mackenzie ??
Above, Shell plc Chair Andrew Mackenzie

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