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Energy report: Act now, stop seeking ‘silver bullet’

bulletThe UK’s energy system isn’t ready to meet future energy needs while also preventing rapid climate change, according to a new report from the Royal Society.

The report calls for a new vision for energy generation that is based on the long-term replacement of fossil fuels through the development and deployment of new technologies.

“For the sake of future generations we cannot afford to wait until our climate is changed dramatically or the oil runs out before we end our dependency on fossil fuels,” said lead author John Shepherd. “If the UK wants to provide global leadership it has to convert talk into action.”

Shepherd continued, “The world needs new ways to generate our electricity and the rate of progress over the last decade has been disappointing. It is difficult to predict what will be required in 50 years time or what breakthroughs will have been made but we must deploy the technologies we have now and not be afraid of being radical in our thinking about new sources of energy.”

The report, “Towards a low carbon future,” outlines a roadmap of the technologies that can play a part in the short (up to 2020), medium (2020-2050) and longer term (beyond 2050) in decarbonising electricity:

  • Short-term transition: deployment of renewables such as wind, tidal and biomass, carbon capture and storage (CCS), and the renewal of nuclear power if issues such as the safe disposal of waste can be addressed;
  • Medium-term transition: new marine, bio-energy and advanced solar technologies, synthetic fuels and wide spread deployment of CCS;
  • Longer-term transition: advanced energy storage and delivery technology to allow the wide spread use of intermittent energy from wind, the sea and the sun and potential deployment of nuclear fusion.

“It is time for us to break away from the endless debate which is so often dominated by vested interests and the search for a silver bullet,” Shepherd said. “The UK’s scientists are among the best in the world and we need to invest in them and their research. The UK could be at the forefront of one of the most fundamental changes in the world’s economy ever, but it will not happen if we take a half-hearted approach. Other countries are moving ahead with carbon capture and storage and new technologies for the large-scale storage of power … are we going to stand by and watch opportunities pass us by?”

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