To achieve Net Zero, there are probably three key things we need to do better:
- Be more considerate with how we source our energy;
- Be more careful with how we use it; and
- Be more imaginative with how we discard the bi-products of that energy generation and consumption.
At the moment, and rightly so, there is significant focus on identifying and accessing sustainable sources of low carbon energy. No argument with that. There is also some attention (albeit it seems reluctant at times) on using our energy resources more efficiently. Again, no argument there.
However, there is considerably less consideration with how we manage the carbon (and other “waste” products) that are released as a consequence of all our industrial, commercial and domestic activities. Now, that is a problem!
On Tuesday (26th February 2022) the Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum1 hosted a highly informative conference on “Next steps for Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS) policy and commercialisation”. An impressive list of knowledgeable and passionate speakers pled their case for the almost forgotten, but equally important “third leg of the stool”.
For over a hundred years, going back to Alfred Marshall’s book Principles of Economics (1890)2, “cluster theory” has been a popular concept in economic development. The idea is to site your supply chain in a single location, to provide a focus for inter alia skills, expertise and scale. The obvious examples of this approach are Hollywood and Silicon Valley. CCUS lends itself to this model, as it needs to be sited close to where Carbon is generated.
The Clusters being developed in the UK need encouragement and assistance to develop at a pace that will provide a structurally supportive “third leg”. As the industry’s trade body, the CCSA3 , recommended, there needs to be “a policy framework to enable projects to develop at pace” and “consensus on UK strengths in product and skill areas to prioritise for investment”.
It is missing the point and the opportunity to source “good energy” and use it “sensibly”, without giving thought to what we do with the “leftovers”.
Transitioning to a lower carbon economy will need more effort on what to do with the excess we have already generated, as well as that which we will continue to generate.
To realistically achieve Net Zero, we need to place considerably more emphasis on the capture, usage and storage of carbon. If you buy responsibly sourced and nutritious ingredients to make a fabulously well-cooked dinner, you cannot forget the washing up!