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How Soon Is Now ? #2

I went to a film screening at Portcullis House yesterday, a kind of extension of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. The event was hosted by the APPCCG, the All-Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group, and the German Embassy.

I had no qualms in accepting refreshments from the German Embassy. They offered jammy Danish pastries with coffee and tea. Very civilised, and loaded with fat and sugar.

We were treated to a showing of a fabulous film by Carl-A. Fechner and company, “The Fourth Revolution : Energy Autonomy“, which will soon be released on DVD with English sub-titles. I highly recommend watching it and reflecting on its proposals.

In the shuttered room, I was sat wedged between Caroline Lucas MP, Joan Whalley MP and Paula Owen, energy consultant who was the lead coordinator on the online ActOnCO2 carbon calculator for the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

During the inevitable technical hitch with the Microsoft Windows platform to get the DVD restarted after it had paused (solution : turn it all off and turn it all on again), I leaned over and shook Caroline Lucas by the hand. “Thank you”, I said. “What for ?” she asked. “Everything you’re doing.”

Besides Caroline, the people on the panel after the film screening were Professor Olav Hohmeyer, member of the German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU) and former Vice-Chair of IPCC Working Group III. He introduced the recent English translation of the SRU report “Pathways towards a 100% renewable electricity system“.

Also there, was Professor Catherine Mitchell of Exeter University, known for her negative views on the prospects for a nuclear power renaissance.

Before the main event, I was talking to a young man who I shall not name who showed some doubt that renewables could energise the world. He made what I call the “baseload argument”, that nuclear power is necessary, because renewable electricity resources are intermittent and variable.

During the panel discussion, Caroline Lucas explained where the “baseload argument” comes from. The nuclear power industry are forever trying to make a case that only a low percentage of the UK’s electricity supply can come from renewable resources. The reason for this is that beyond a certain amount of renewables in the supply, nuclear power generators would have to regularly stop and start supplying the grid, which would destroy their economic viability. They would prefer to be considered the always-present source of a fixed percentage of power.

What should happen, said Caroline, is that State support should not go to nuclear power, as this will effectively kill off the development of genuinely sustainable options. State support should instead go towards renewables, including small scale rooftop solar.

As I tried to explain to the young man – it seems that the economics of nuclear power are degrading rapidly anyway, without high levels of renewable power emerging. There is little evidence that energy companies are serious about building a new fleet of nuclear power reactors in the UK.

Besides which, we don’t need nuclear power for baseload. We can have power on-demand from Renewable Gas to backup wind and solar power when the climate is inclement.

And as in all things, the Germans are ahead. And as usual, the Germans are act reflectively, not reflexively. No kneejerk policy changes. Everything is managed and in order.

The entrepreneur Prag Mistry was in attendance at the event, and he expressed that what was on offer in the film did not live up to its exciting central thesis of energy autonomy for the whole world. He could perhaps learn that the German way is not the way of the English-speaking world. Germany makes advances through dialogue, and without sensationalism.

A major figure from the British renewable electricity sector tried to convince Carl-A. Fechner that what really needs to happen is that some energy technologies are banned. Then suggested that Dale Vince of Ecotricity would be a useful person to talk to about getting the film widely seen in the UK.

Several people mentioned that the film should be shown by the public broadcaster BBC. One person mentioned that perhaps, since Sky was a carbon-neutral broadcaster, Mr Murdoch would agree to show it, and a selection of other films on the same subject that have been made recently.

Tom from WWF and I discussed how energy efficiency is really important in achieving 100% renewable energy, and how the new WWF report is similar yet dissimilar to the CAT Zero Carbon Britain report.

I picked up business cards from Kye Gbangbola of Total Eco Management Ltd, in the trade of sustainability reporting, a very engaging and forward-thinking young man; and Herbert Eppel, a German-English translator of technical and scientific documents, who I already knew from discussion in the Claverton Energy Research Group online forum.

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