By Andrew ZP Smith, on 3 May 2016
The next Mayor of Greater London has an easy time and a hard time ahead.
The incumbent has shown little intention to do much with the power of the office. So the new mayor won’t have to work too hard to look busy or effective, by comparison. That’s the easy time ahead.
But, in terms of managing London’s transport, they have a very hard time. For the first eight years of London’s new government, investment spanned all areas of transport, with vigorous interventions, and lots of long-term strategic planning and research. All that changed, with the change of mayor and the global financial crisis in 2008: in particular, the strategic planning and research capacities in Transport for London were cut back deeply. This is an apparently cheap strategy – a mayor that cuts long-term planning, but who had a predecessor who’d invested deeply in it, gets to live off yesterday’s investment, while leaving nothing for their successor. Like a farmer who only harvested and never sowed, there’s nothing at the next harvest. So when the next mayor wants to know what the long-term planning and strategic capacity is, they are in for a bit of a shock. And the picture gets worse: the money London receives from the Treasury to help meet the ongoing expenses its transport system, is to be phased out, leaving London with a £0.7bn shortfall. However, capital expenditure is still in place, and the go-ahead has been given for Crossrail 2. This a policy mistake that keeps getting repeated in transport in Britain: we invest in infrastructure, and then fail to provide for its operation and maintenance. Read the rest of this entry »
By Andreas Economou, on 14 April 2016
The objective of the so-called Doha Meeting in Qatar, on April 17, between the world’s top oil producers is fairly straightforward: to agree on a collective OPEC and non-OPEC oil output freeze to January 2016 levels, in an effort to halt the nearly two-year oil price collapse. Yet, the actual scope of the agreement is way less ambiguous and far more OPEC-specific.
Amid the most dramatic quarter since the price fall (1Q2016) – i.e. prices hovering below $30/bbl to a 13-year low, a persistent supply-driven bear market, global economic growth forecasts being downgraded and a deep contango encouraging stocks to rise above 5-year average – Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Russia and Qatar have revived a very well crafted “As-Is Agreement”. The terms of the agreement are relatively painless for the participating oil producers, which are already producing near their capacity limit and near their average forecast levels for 2016 –see Table 1. For all oil producers, excluding Saudi Arabia and Iran, announcing that they will not increase production in the near-term, confirms merely what was already known given the global squeeze on capital resources towards upstream developments. Read the rest of this entry »
By Giorgio Castagneto Gissey, on 13 April 2016
A freeze in output would stop adding to the excess supply that has caused prices to collapse from levels above GBP 70 per barrel seen in June 2014. Oil is very rarely used for electricity generation, only about 1-2% of the times in the UK. Given that the UK electricity system is based on the merit order of electricity generators in the country – i.e. the marginal cost of producing an extra unit of electricity, by which electricity generators with progressively higher costs are dispatched as demand increases, in order to minimise prices for consumers – oil is always used as a last resort because it always has the highest cost. In such a system, when the marginal generator is used it always sets the price. Thus, when oil is used it always sets the electricity price. Read the rest of this entry »
By Pamela Fennell, on 8 March 2016
Gender equality in the workplace has been a recurrent theme for Energy Demand in Practice, a student–led seminar series which explores the range of career paths in energy-related industries. Our audiences, aware of historically low rates of female participation in the energy industry have been keen to ask the speakers what it is like in their workplaces and whether they feel opportunities are equal. Read the rest of this entry »
By Emma Terama, on 8 March 2016
Athena SWAN is the process for accreditation in higher education and research for their work to support women’s equal opportunities and advancement. The Bartlett, UCL’s global faculty of the built environment, chose to seek this accreditation as a whole, instead of the comprising Schools/Centres applying separately. This is a reflection on that process that started in October 2015 by one member of the self-assessment team. Read the rest of this entry »
By Nagore Sabio, on 8 March 2016
I am a Research Associate in Energy Systems Modelling at UCL-Energy. I studied chemical engineering and for my PhD I developed multi-objective mathematical programming models that can help building more sustainable process industries and energy systems by looking to many different environmental life-cycle performance metrics in addition to economic criteria. My current job at UCL allows me to take the theories behind my modelling frameworks, with an initial focus on engineering and process unit operations, a step in further in aggregation to a systems level perspective. Within this systems perspective, the demand-side influence starts to take a bigger role and as much relevance as the supply-side operations. This allows me to exploit the synergies between my previous and current research experiences, which are very complementary in their theoretical perspectives. The arising combinations specifically tap on the pillars of sustainable development, which are based on integrating the economy, the environment and society, in a holistic manner.
With regards to ‘women in science’, there are more than a few who inspire me. The earliest ‘women in science’ story that I heard about was Marie Curie’s one. Her life and career brought to my consciousness the very limited roles that women were expected and trained to play in society from their very early ages. These limitations of course translate in all the sorts of additional struggles and preconceptions that women face in society nowadays, and in particular in science still. I found very interesting how her success was in the end mostly in the hands of her husband, Pierre Curie, who decided to complain to the Nobel Prize jury against their discrimination towards his wife. Marie was about to be excluded from the nomination of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 just because of her gender.
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By Sofie Pelsmakers, on 8 March 2016
The built environment is still not equated with a diverse work force unlike the stakeholders with whom we work with and for. The annual survey of women in architecture released last month, makes for uneasy reading: deep-rooted inequalities and perceptions of gender differences that seem to affect women architects particularly badly. So on international women’s day I’d briefly like to share my journey as a woman in architecture practice, research and academia. In June 2015, I was shortlisted among 11 others by the RIBA as one of its ‘Role Models’, hopefully inspiring others that they too can forge a successful career in architecture. Since I shared my story as part of the Role Model Project, I noticed a positive change within myself and how I view myself. It is hard to explain, but I am more at ease with myself and more accepting of myself. I no longer fear of speaking out about my background (read about it here) or being a woman in a still mostly male dominated profession (more about that here). On reflection, this makes sense: sharing our stories so publicly received positive responses and made me realise that I was wrong to be afraid to speak out. I no longer feel as vulnerable sharing my personal journey: I have a voice and I want to use my voice on issues that matter to me in the hope that it inspires others and to draw out the value of differences. I also realised I should no longer be embarrassed about my background, but celebrate how far I have come despite the challenges along the way and to see and use this as a strength. Read the rest of this entry »
By Robert Lowe, on 21 January 2016
In December 2015 immediately following the publication of the COP21 Paris Agreement I wrote a short note on the competing reasons for pessimism and optimism. What follows expands on that theme. I am going to focus on three things: COP21, the confirmation that 2015 has been the warmest year on the instrumental record, and continued reports that coal consumption in China may have peaked. Read the rest of this entry »
By Lisa Iszatt, on 20 January 2016
Blog by Virginia Gori, Pamela Fennell and Lisa Iszatt
Energy Demand in Practice is a seminar series focussing on the different roles and opportunities available within the energy demand field. The aim of the seminars is to explore the range of career paths that are available to PhD graduates, providing students with inspiration, advice on matters such as workplace skills that might be required, and networking opportunities. The Energy Demand in Practice team currently consists of Virginia Gori, Pamela Fennell and Lisa Iszatt, who set up this series in collaboration with LoLo management at UCL in response to feedback from students that more information was needed on careers in the field of Energy Demand. The events are primarily aimed at LoLo students but all UCL students are welcome.
Our first event “Is there life after a PhD?” aimed at exploring the range of possible careers in energy and investigating how to best use the skills acquired in the PhD. Two speakers introduced their ‘life after a PhD’; their career paths and the lessons they have learned along the way. This was followed by a panel session with recent graduates responding to a range of questions from the floor on topics such as internships, day to day tasks, gender equality and how to sell a PhD.
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By Robert Lowe, on 16 December 2015
In contrast to the failure of the 2009 Copenhagen talks there is clearly more to celebrate with the Paris Climate Deal. The achievement of getting all 195 countries to commit to emission reduction is a diplomatic success, but at the level of concrete commitments, the deal falls well short of what is needed to prevent dangerous Climate Change. So what is my short list of indicators, and what is my overall assessment of prospects for the future?
A U.S. Presidential position on Climate Change as strong as it is likely to get for a decade.
An agreement that displays a profound unreality about ends and means, but may nevertheless provide a foundation that future progress can be built upon. A UK government that, having provided political leadership for many years, balks at backing CCS.
But, a rejuvenated IEA providing a powerful new voice on energy efficiency. Growth in renewables that, if continued, may see global consumption of fossil fuels peak in the mid-to-late 20s.
A reawakened China led by a political class that, in the aftermath of a century and a half of turmoil, famine and war, probably has a keen awareness of the possible costs of future, climate-induced instability.
And an agreement on climate backed, for the first time, by Saudi Arabia and other major oil producers.
It is still, just, to play for.
Photo credit: Pixabay – Public Domain CC0 – timmz