Monday, August 2, 2010

Energy Plan for the UK 2050

2 August: The government's Department of Energy and Climate Change, with Chris Huhne as Energy secretary, have published their Energy Plan 2050.
    I am glad they have done this, as we at the Dept of Built Environment are frequently talking about 2050 as a target. A long term target requires a different sort of thinking to short terms like 2012 and 2016, payback calculations, tariffs and the like - these are all small steps, but what will it really be like in forty years time? Society, living patterns and the energy economy will be radically different by 2050 (for those of us still here....). I am not envisaging a world of Dan Dare, jetpacks and travelators, more the opposite - far more reliance on bicycles and local farming and other forms of localism than we can now imagine - and possibly with regular power cuts in some areas.
   That is the Energy and Food-Water picture. If Climate Change raises sea levels, that is another whole thing to worry about. Energy shortage is an immediate risk facing us which even the most hardened climate change denier is unable to deny.
   If we could take one of these imaginary jetpacks and take a flight over England in 2050, we would see photoelectric roofs everywhere, rather like you now see water tanks on all rural houses in Australian outback. It will become a necessity for new houses, indeed, it is built into the 2016 regulations for new houses. Distributed home generation is necessary to reduce the great transmission losses from the large central generating stations. Houses built between 2016 and 2050 will face predominantly south to make their roofs more convertible to PV. Developers will recognise it as a necessity to help them sell the houses. Solar thermal is becoming increasingly visible in 2010, but will be nearly universal a decade from now.
   Rainwater catchment will have become a necessity, as will vastly better insulation (which you can't see from your jetpack.... ) You would see more gardens turned over to vegetable growing than now - the trend is already happening. Lifestyle changes will have been forced onto us, such as reduced expectations of easy travel.
  The report can be downloaded as a 5 meg PDF from the page:
and seems very thorough, with sections on Lighting, Transport, Industry, Space and Water heating, cooling, Agriculture, BioEnergy, Waste, Nuclear, Fossil fuel carbon capture, Onshore wind, Offshore wind, Tidal energy, Wave energy, Microgeneration (thats us folks!), Geothermal electricity, Hydropower, Electricity balancing, Negative emissions and Electricity imports. The report  starts with pathways towards this, and concludes with a discussion of costs.

  Page 94 brings in the discussion of Space and Water heating. Heat pumps get high profile coverage later in the section.
  Page 212 brings in the discussion of Microgeneration, with PV a couple of pages later. It is clear that up to 2009 (the announcement of the Feed in Tariff) the UK is lagging behind Europe and the rest of the world.


  1. Do you think that all homes in the UK will become solar orientated?? I am not so sure, we are frequently up against sites where the only way to get housing density is to have buildings in all directions. I totally understand your point, but i don't think the builders nor the planners will get there.
    The fabric first approach should be the primary objective - heat loss and reduced air leakage (to near zero!), then MVHR and a heat pump, possibly solar thermal for DHW and then we have reduced the energy requirement by over 70%. If we just did that bit, then we have hit the problem with a sledge hammer and thats not too difficult for the housebuilders to get their heads around (given time!).

    Then the big problem - the 26million dwellings already in existence!

  2. Chris, I hear what you say... but I am doing this scheme in Surrey, which is to be a solar settlement, and the Developer recognises that to get the maximum return (either for offering PV roof-leasing or offering the house buyer the maximum return) we are going to have to organise predominantly south facing orientations, which overcome other considerations like twee little houses arranged round a car park.
    This is the most likely way he is likely to get planning permission in such a site (green field expansion), so it becomes a necessity.

  3. it will be interesting to see what the drivers for this approach will be in the future. Generally most builders will do the minimum .i.e. building regs. - not really caring what the building costs to run etc.. but when you get a developer that does have an interest, like getting the FIT reward then this is a different story...... its going to be interesting to see what happens!!

  4. We are going to try to combine the idea of roof leasing with the development. Make every house suitable for it, for certain, but propose the idea that each house has it, and the developer has option to earn the FIT for next 25 yrs. There is enough space on the roof also for Solar Thermal.

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