Zero Carbon Britain by the Centre for Alternative Technology

The Centre for Alternative Technology has just released a report,

Response Below by Stephen Stretton
Cambridge Zero Carbon Society

Main comments

  • Very positive report
  • Answering the correct question: how to decarbonise our economy over 20 years
  • Largely comes up with a plausible solution: i.e. use electricity rather than fossil fuels.
  • Plenty of useful detail on the global context
  • Less detail on policy – crucial as it is policy led.
  • Less detail on how/why we should expect the changes that have been made to come about.
  • Concern that same outcome could be achieved at lower (resource and economic) cost
  • The cost/benefits of policies to general economic well being are very important as they will determine whether other countries follow our lead.

Policy: Zero Carbon Britain

Use of Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs): Volatility and administrative complexity issues.
Carbon tax, combined with a citizen’s income and a public information campaign might be
‘Energy for a common purpose’ could be attacked cynically by speculators etc since it amounts to a fully tradable price of energy. It adds administrative complexity without benefit
Use of Feed-in-Tarrifs is not outlined anywhere in the book, but probably amount to a vast
subsidy. Direct cost to treasury of feed-in tarrifs?
(£3bn/GW)*(120GW)=£300-£400billion pounds?

High Cost to UK general economic well being
Will be copied by other countries? Doubtful?

Policy: Cambridge Zero Carbon Society

Carbon Tax + Citizens Income – rather than VAT and income tax. (Cost to treasury:
Encourage Low cost energy by price guarantees– to secure our energy future without
huge subsidies.(Cost to the treasury: Zero). A minimum electricity price of (say) 6p/kWh could encourage the adoption of economic energy technologies on a large scale.

High Benefit to UK general economic well being
Global effect – others might follow us?

Energy: Zero Carbon Britain

Largest contributions are from

  • Offshore Wind, particularly deep-offshore
  • Wave technology

Wave technology: talking about a million fold increase. (Wave machines from here to Iceland!)

Investing in these technologies will reduce the price but perhaps not enough to make them economic – inherent resource cost is relatively high.

Other countries don’t have as much (if any) free sea.

Investing in expensive technologies may not be the best use of our money as these technologies may not be taken up by the rest of the world

Energy: Cambridge Zero Carbon Society

The three technologies which are not included are potentially the most significant namely:

  • (International) Concentrated Solar Energy,
  • Nuclear Energy, and
  • Coal with Carbon Capture and storage.

One thought on “Zero Carbon Britain by the Centre for Alternative Technology”

  1. Hi Steve / all,
    Thanks for the feedback. In regard to technologies we didn’t include. Concentrated Solar Energy was looked into in some depth there are clearly some very interesting projects in Spain and potential for huge projects in appropriate climates.

    In the ZeroCarbonBritain scenario we looked at having an Island Britain. Would it be possible to meet our energy (inc. food) need within the resources of Island Britain. This was seen as an important by those we consulted. However, it is by no means an ideal.

    We would be very interested in an European grid and the opportunities that would offer, making it significantly easier for the EU as a whole to meet their energy needs. Integration with Europe will be a key part of our research going forward.

    On Nuclear, this is discussed in our report however the conclusion was not to use it.

    In regard to our use of TEQ over tax we feel this be significantly more equitable and create a common purpose with government, business and individuals working together. It would also offer a cap which taxation does not.

    The revenue generated from the TEQ system could be used to displace other taxation. Changing government revenue generation from employment for example to carbon (and equivalents) would be an economical effective move as you highlight.

    All the best,

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