X Close

UCL Energy Institute Blog

Home

Blogs by staff & students of the UCL Energy Institute

Menu

The making of a globally sustainable energy system

StevePye14 November 2016

sustainable world (c) istockphoto

Blog by Steve Pye, Paul Ekins, Ian Hamilton, November 2016

As delegates at COP22 in Marrakech convene to discuss how to implement the Paris Agreement, there is a continuing focus on how to move to a sustainable global energy system. The challenge is that fossil fuels have long been the mainstay of the energy system, and an essential driver of growth. Rapidly reducing our reliance on their use is no small task, but one that is essential if we are to succeed in achieving the climate ambition set out in the December 2015 Paris Agreement.  The challenge is brought sharply into focus when we consider that the global energy system accounts for 65% of anthropogenic GHG emissions[1], but will need to be a net zero-emitter at some point between 2050 and 2100.

The challenge

The barriers to this transition are immense. (more…)

The highs and lows at the United Nations International Maritime Organisation’s 70th Marine Environment Protection Committee

NishatabbasRehmatulla11 November 2016

pixa-shipOn 24-28 October 2016, two weeks before the Marrakech COP22, the International Maritime Organization (IMO)- the UN’s body responsible for regulating shipping, met for the 70th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC). With a heavy agenda on the table, colleagues from UMAS closely followed two key agenda items, review of the implementation date for a sulphur cap (item 5), and, reduction of GHG emissions from ships (item 7).

On the first day of the committee meeting Dr Tristan Smith and Carlo Raucci along with the lead authors of the study presented the findings of the IMO fuel availability study as a side event presentation. The presentation was followed by another study using the same terms of reference but coming to a contrasting conclusion. (more…)

RIP DECC – but will we miss you?

PeterMallaburn15 July 2016

Envionmental friendly light bulb.

So after 8 years the DECC experiment is over. The immediate reaction is mixed with some saying that climate policy has been diluted. Others say that linking climate and industry policy is a sensible approach. Who is right?

On energy efficiency, I’m optimistic. In DECC, energy efficiency was isolated in Whitehall. It needs to ride the waves of other policies and not compete with them. The strategic case for energy efficiency is compelling – but that is better done by a department of business and not a department of carbon.

This is particularly true now we are to have an industrial strategy. Productivity, competitiveness, risk, cost and value are all pivotal industrial drivers, and they are all key selling points for energy efficiency. It should have a chapter of its own.

I think the same applies to energy efficiency in homes. The reason why the Green Deal was such a disaster was that the “business case” for us as householders never worked. But more importantly selling energy efficiency to us is – or should be – a business proposition.

And finally I don’t buy the assertion that energy efficiency will get buried. In 1992, we rescued energy efficiency from the old DTI because it wasn’t safe in the hands of neoclassical DTI economists. But now we have the Climate Change Act and, so far, no-one is trying to unpick that.

So far.

 

photo credit: iStock

Oil Producers Meeting in Doha, Qatar: Technical opinion

AndreasEconomou14 April 2016

fuel-2741_640

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. (more…)

What would be the impact of the April 17 OPEC meeting on the UK electricity market?

GiorgioCastagneto Gissey13 April 2016

oil-802209_1920

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. (more…)

Athena SWAN in the Bartlett – Bringing Us Together

EmmaTerama8 March 2016

people-sitting-690317_1280

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. (more…)

The ground-breaking Paris Agreement leaves no room for delay in cutting emissions

StevePye15 December 2015

smoke-654071_1920

The achievements of the Paris Agreement are significant. The contrast with the failure of Copenhagen in 2009 are captured in the following Guardian headlines: Low targets, goals dropped: Copenhagen ends in failure (19th December 2009) and Paris climate change agreement: the world’s greatest diplomatic success (14th December 2015).

The greatest achievement has been in getting all 195 countries committing to a strong level of ambition, to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C. This reflects strong recognition of the climate science in these negotiations. (more…)

The Paris Agreement – second time lucky?

PeterMallaburn14 December 2015

Paris - CC0 Public Domain - Unsplash

So the deal is done. And a very curious deal it is too.

As I said in the first part of this blog, the Paris Agreement is our second attempt at implementing the UNFCCC. The idea was to move away from the top-down mandatory, rich country approach of the Kyoto Protocol to a more bottom-up, voluntary approach with all countries involved.  To their enormous credit, the negotiators have succeeded. (more…)

Ratcheting up the ambition level: Implementing deep decarbonisation pathways

StevePye4 December 2015

industry-970817_1920
There is a sense that COP21 provides for greater optimism than previous climate change conferences. And for good reason. Emission reduction pledges have been made by most, and the largest emitters are for the first time meaningfully engaged. Providing an important backdrop to this are the positive signs of an energy systems transition underway, as renewables investment continues to grow as technology costs fall, and the rate of fossil fuel use growth slows. (more…)

Paris – outside looking in

PeterMallaburn30 November 2015

Throughout COP21 our staff and students will be blogging on climate change and energy.

With COP21 upon us I must admit to being a bit of a Framework Convention outsider, which is, perhaps, a bit strange for the editor of Climate Policy Journal. In 1990, as a civil servant I worked, peripherally, on the Berlin Mandate. I was at COP 7 in Marrakech, but at the margins. Some of the 1995 IPCC WG1 report is mine. But mostly I have been outside the COP process looking in. (more…)