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UCL Energy Institute Blog


Blogs by staff & students of the UCL Energy Institute


RIP DECC – but will we miss you?

ucqbpsm15 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

Andreas Economou14 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. (more…)

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

tjmscas13 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. (more…)

Athena SWAN in the Bartlett – Bringing Us Together

ucfaete8 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. (more…)

International women’s day, inspiration from the past, present and hope for the future

ucftns18 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.

pic 1With 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.

Two months since COP21, where are we now?

ucftrj021 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. (more…)

‘Is there life after PhD?’ First event from the Energy Demand in Practice seminar series

zcft02320 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.

EDP1 (more…)

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

ucfaspy15 December 2015


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?

ucqbpsm14 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…)

Paris – outside looking in

ucqbpsm30 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…)