Which energy technologies will be the winners in the low carbon transition?

On 23 November 2015, Green Alliance hosted a panel debate with advocates of solar, wind, tidal, nuclear and CCS to explore how these technologies could drive the low carbon transition.

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  1. Dustin Benton, head of energy and resources at Green Alliance introduced the event, followed by a panel debate with Rachel Cary, lead stakeholder relations adviser at DONG Energy UK, Mike Landy, head of policy at the Solar Trade Association, Chris Littlecott, programme leader at E3G, Mark Lynas, political director at Cornell Alliance for Science and Stephen Tindale, co-founder of Climate Answers and consultant to Tidal Lagoon Power. Amy Mount, senior policy adviser at Green Alliance, chaired the discussion.
  2. Dustin Benton summarised the principles outlined by the Secretary of State in her 'energy reset' speech the previous week. A long term least cost strategy; tough love for renewables through a commit and review approach; support for learning by doing; support for technologies that can scale; and special support for security of supply.
  3. Panellists were asked to put the case: which technologies will be amongst the winners in the low carbon transition to 2025?
  4. Speaking for wind, Rachel Cary of DONG stated that costs have already dropped by 40 per cent per decade. Proposing an eventual subsidy-free environment, she highlighted how technologies need a level playing field ranging from community level to offshore. She called for increased flexibility services such as demand side response.
  5. Chris Littlecott stressed a broader perspective to 2050 and beyond, to understand properly the value of carbon capture and storage (CCS). Underlining the role of CCS as a transition technology, he urged the government to create a route to retrofit via the capacity market. In light of the Amber Rudd's speech, Chris said new-build gas could be limited to meeting peak demand only.
  6. Advocating for nuclear, Mark Lynas stressed the technology’s base load capacity and its differentiation from other renewables, thanks to its almost infinite supply of fuel. He pointed out shared imperatives between nuclear and other renewables: R&D on storage being one of these.
  7. Solar specialist Mike Landy said that solar will alleviate fuel poverty and enhance UK energy security. Forecasted to become subsidy-free between 2020, Mike said rooftop solar will help to diversify the rural economy and support around 60,000 jobs. He said the industry needs at most three to five years of feed-in tariffs, a removal of fossil fuel subsidies, a replacement of distribution networks alongside investments in storage - and stable government policy.
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