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Future Energy – UCL ISR


Perspectives on low-carbon future energy systems and sustainable development


Is Amber Rudd’s energy policy ‘reset’ innovation-friendly?

By ucftwas, on 4 November 2015

windturbineschematic-©-istockby Will McDowall and Andrew ZP Smith

Innovation is one of those uncontroversially good things that politicians love to champion. For those worried about the economy, innovation is agreed to be a fundamental driver of long-term economic growth. For everyone worried about the environment, innovation is crucial for decoupling that growth from environmental damages, and achieving the deep reductions in emissions that are necessary.

So far, so much agreement. But academics, policy analysts and commentators have often disagreed about the detail of how best to drive innovation, particularly in clean technologies. There are some economists who argue that, beyond some support for basic R&D, government should be involved as little as possible. They argue that innovation is too uncertain for governments to engage in: it’s private actors that should take on the risks and rewards of developing the technologies and systems of tomorrow. After all, who other than businesses can really know what consumers will demand? (more…)

RE-SETTING UK ENERGY POLICY: What role for Economic Instruments?

By ucftpe0, on 4 November 2015

energy saving (c) istockphoto iznogoodThere is growing bewilderment practically everywhere about what the still relatively new UK Government is doing is respect of energy policy. The mantra since the election is that energy policy is to be re-set to achieve decarbonisation targets, to which the government says that it is still committed, in a more cost-effective way that will benefit the ‘hard-working families’ to which the government says that it is also committed. Unfortunately it is quite impossible to recognise this laudable objective in the policies that have so far been implemented, especially those which use those policies called economic instruments – basically taxes, charges and subsidies – which are the subject of this blog. (more…)

UK energy policy: rationalisation or politicisation?

By ucftmgr, on 30 September 2015

A James size A3The conservative government inherited a problem in energy policy. So did the coalition government before it. As so often, the coalition’s solution to the problems inherited from the 2000s have fed the concerns of its successor, and the new government has set about changes with zeal: the first hundred days saw the end of subsidies to onshore wind and changing planning laws, requiring renewables to pay the climate change levy, initiating drastic cuts to feed-in tariffs, scrapping the ‘Green Deal’ and zero carbon homes policies, and deferring this year’s auctions for new renewable energy capacity. (more…)


By Christophe E McGlade, on 12 March 2015

shale gas extraction © istockphoto

by Dr Christophe McGlade and Prof Paul Ekins, UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources

We have known for some time that to limit global warming, some of the world’s fossil fuel reserves are going to have to stay in the ground. All of the carbon dioxide that would result from burning current fossil fuel reserves is around three times the amount that gives us a decent chance of staying below the 2oC threshold (the temperature rise accepted by the international community as associated with the possible onset of dangerous climate change).

Until recently people therefore frequently reported that two thirds of fossil fuels globally were ‘unburnable’. While it’s possible to get lots of interesting insights from this simple finding, this treats all the fossil fuels as the same. This is too simplistic. (more…)