Debates between Lord Ravensdale and Lord Berkeley

There have been 1 exchanges between Lord Ravensdale and Lord Berkeley

1 Thu 6th February 2020 Climate Change
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
2 interactions (1,338 words)

Climate Change

Debate between Lord Ravensdale and Lord Berkeley
Lord Ravensdale Portrait Lord Ravensdale (CB)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Browne, for tabling this important and timely debate. I declare my interests as an engineer in the energy industry, specialising in nuclear, and a director of the cross-party group Peers for the Planet.

I am a techno-optimist, unlike the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett. Maybe it is inherent in being an engineer. Oscar Wilde said:

“The basis of optimism is sheer terror”,

which feels appropriate in the context of the climate crisis. Although I believe the report’s approach is correct in looking at currently available technologies, there are two key omissions: first, viewing carbon capture and storage as a breakthrough rather than an incremental technology; and secondly, the nature of the absolute zero target due to the perceived lack of negative emissions options.

First, although the report is correct that carbon capture and storage technology is not yet being deployed at a meaningful scale, it is mature. I apologise for getting into the nuts and bolts somewhat, but a recent report from the Royal Society of Chemistry assessed the capture and transmission elements of CCS as being at a technology readiness level of 9, the highest available. The challenges are in the integration and scaling up of the technology.

It is quite common in these discussions to quote the glacial pace of previous energy transitions, a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Browne, as a reason that CCS cannot contribute to net zero, but in fact the current energy transition is proceeding at breakneck speed and will continue to do so. For example, gas went from a tiny fraction of our electricity generation mix to around 40% in less than 10 years. Wind got going only in the late 1990s, and look at where we are with that now. There is no reason why CCS cannot follow a similar path if the political will is there to do it. It is an oven-ready technology, as the Prime Minister might say.

Following on from CCS, bioenergy CCS is a negative emissions option currently being scaled up by industry, for example in the pilot at Drax power station. As with CCS, the key challenges are in the integration and scaling up of the technology. The Committee on Climate Change has done a lot of good work on bioenergy CCS. In its 2050 net-zero scenario, it estimates that bioenergy CCS could sequester around 35 megatonnes of CO2 per year, enough to counter the residual effects of the aviation industry. Afforestation can play a big part there as well.

The effect of these two technologies could really change the 2050 picture completely. The effects of cement and steel production would be mitigated because the emissions from those industries can be captured. Shipping and air travel could continue because their residual remissions can be offset by, for example, bioenergy CCS. Electricity production can increase through the use of CCS generation and an increase in the use of nuclear power, as the noble Lord, Lord Broers, mentioned. But that is not to underestimate the challenge. The Government need to move quickly by investing in CCS and getting pilot projects moving to define the commercial approach.

I turn now to talk briefly about the policy implications of CCS. Along with other firm power generation methods such as nuclear, which are needed for a least-cost electricity system, it suffers from being compared on a levelised cost of electricity basis with intermittent renewables, in terms of pounds per megawatt hour. The levelised cost of energy calculation is done at the point of generation, not at the point of use, so it does not take into account the system integration costs of intermittent generators, which are significant. The Committee on Climate Change estimates that these could be up to £20 per megawatt hour for high penetrations of renewables. Perhaps the Minister could comment on how the Government intend to address the shortcomings of levelised cost of energy metrics and move towards a level playing field for generation, because it is absolutely vital to recognise that not all generation technologies provide the same services to the system.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Browne for securing this debate and we have heard some very interesting speeches. I will focus on transport, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Birt, said, is one of the biggest current polluters. My worry is that a lot of us, as well as a lot of speakers in this debate, have focused on one or more new technologies, or possibly lifestyle changes, but we have to guard against focusing on the one solution that may cause us the least inconvenience. There are people in many other parts of the world at risk of drowning through weather events or suffering famine as well as everything else, which really has to be taken seriously.

Current government policies look like they will have a lot of catching up to do if they are to achieve what I think we all want as we move forward. Heavy funding is still going into new roads. The Government’s forecasts for traffic growth indicate that there will be an increase of 50% in traffic by 2050. We are looking at extra airport capacity. Why? We are looking at fuel duty, which has not gone up for many years while rail fares are rising. Why, if we want to encourage people on to rail? Where is the funding for buses, which are much more environmentally friendly than people driving around? Worst of all, while we rightly have endless debates about who is building more houses where, how are people supposed to get from those houses to their schools, offices, shops or wherever they want to go without a car? Public transport needs to be integrated with where people want to go.

We have an even greater problem with the movement of freight. We already have electric cars, but electric trucks bringing oranges from Spain are probably impossible at the moment. If they were possible, the cost of manufacturing the equipment would be very high. Cheaper rail fares and lower charges for rail freight would be a good thing, and perhaps the Government would like to follow the example of the German Government, who have just cut access charges for rail freight by 10%. I hope the Government will come up with some new policies on this before COP 26 in the autumn.

It is worth reminding ourselves that Friends of the Earth suggests that traffic reduction by 2030 should be somewhere between 20% and 60%. That is the opposite of going up by 50%. Surely that is something we should really be looking at much more seriously.

There is a great deal to be done on behaviour and the changes that will need to happen in our population growth, the nature and location of work, education, housing, healthcare and leisure. As the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, mentioned, digital technology is also very important. There is also paying for road use or electricity and possibly even reducing the need to travel in going about our business. Flying should increase in cost. We never mention shipping very much, but some of the emissions from ships need serious challenging as part of this campaign. We really need more rail travel for people—more stations and freight terminals—and to be aware, if we want hydrogen-producing transport, that it costs energy and electricity to make hydrogen. It is easy to go down one route and forget about how the rest of it will happen.

There needs to be a plan of action. As a colleague, Professor Anable of Leeds ITS, told me, we need traffic- reduction targets—not an increase, and not just for roads but for rail and air—and some real incentivisation to co-ordinate transport and planning objectives with the need to reduce travel. We need to do many other things, such as regulation and increasing investment in non-car modes, but it ends up as quite a change in lifestyle as an example to the rest of the world —which will be miles behind, if we are not careful.