We use cookies to ensure that our site works correctly and provides you with the best experience. If you continue using our site without changing your browser settings, we'll assume that you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use and how to manage them by reading our cookies policy. Hide

Current Issue

19th February 2020
Selected Chemistry & Industry magazine issue

Select an Issue


C&I e-books

C&I e-books

C&I apps

iOS App
Android App

Zero carbon Britain

Posted 16/06/2010 by RoseS

Energy efficiency is something about which the chemical industry has good reason to be proud. The industry in the UK and other developed countries has made significant reductions in the amount of energy that it uses for each unit of production. Over the period 1990 to 2004, for example, energy use per unit of product fell by almost 40%.

The reason is, of course, that energy is a major cost of production in almost every sector of chemical production from the simple heating of reagents either directly by electricity or indirectly through the generation of steam right through to its use as a critical contribution in, for example, the electro-based chloralkali sector. According to the European Chemical Industries Council (Cefic) energy costs can account for up to 60% of the production cost in some chemical sectors. Energy efficiency can mean major cost savings.

In addition to its own contribution to increasing energy efficiency, the industry also lays claim to be a major contributor to energy efficiency improvements in other industry sectors, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As the independent report prepared by the consultant McKinsey on behalf of Cefic in July 2009 claimed to demonstrate, there would have been between 8 and 11% more GHG emissions in 2005 in a world without the chemical industry.

The biggest so-called levers evaluated for emissions savings enabled by the chemical industry included insulation materials for the construction industry, which accounted for 40% of the total identified saving; fertilisers and crop protection agents, which increased agricultural yields thereby avoiding emissions from land-use change; and advanced lighting solutions, such as compact fluorescent bulbs. The report lists a further seven levers: plastic packaging, marine antifouling coatings, synthetic textiles, automotive plastics, low-temperature detergents, engine efficiency and plastics used in piping.

But the further reductions sought by the European Environment Council, which seeks to move from its current level of 20% to 30% are blown out of the water by the proposals in a new report published this week by the UK Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), which says that the UK could achieve a transition to zero carbon by 2030.

The report, Zero carbon Britain 2030, offers a new strategy that, according to CAT’s Paul Allen, shows how a right mix of wind power, hydro, solar, biomass – plus an intelligent grid to manage demand – can achieve this target, with no requirement for nuclear power. ‘We can ‘keep the lights on’ and supply the energy the country needs – with major win-wins across the economy.’ He does add, however, that with nuclear power ‘the progress would be easier but it isn’t necessary’.

Commenting on the strategy, which is the result of input from 13 universities, twelve research bodies and eight key industry players, Andrew Simms, policy director of the New Economics Foundation, says: ‘We have the lifetime of this parliament to break Britain’s fossil fuel addiction. If we do, we can enjoy greater energy security and a more sustainable, dynamic and resilient economy. If we don’t, we will lurch from one energy and environmental crisis to another on a downward spiral.’

For Eugenie Harvey, director of 10:10UK, which aims to cut the UK’s carbon consumption by 10% in 2010, the report ‘is a no-brainer – it shows that a zero carbon Britain is both desirable and achievable’.

But it will require a great deal of change – and in most cases, it will need behavioural change, from eating less meat to abolishing internal flights and a change electric cars.

To download the report, go to http://www.Zerocarbonbritain.com and watch out for a more detailed look at the proposals in a future issue of C&I.

Neil Eisberg - Editor

Add your comment