On 6 October we launched our report, The role of energy demand reduction in achieving net-zero in the UK, with a webinar presentation and panel discussion.
- Session host: Jillian Anable | CREDS Transport & Mobility theme lead
- Presentation: John Barrett | CREDS Materials & Products theme lead
- John Barrett | CREDS Materials & Products theme lead
- Chris Stark | CEO at the Climate Change Committee
- Rebecca Willis | Professor in Practice at Lancaster University Environment Centre
- Caterina Brandmayr | Head of Climate Policy at Green Alliance
Presentation from John Barrett
Presentation video transcript
Jillian Anable: Okay, good afternoon everyone, welcome to this exciting event hosted by CREDS. Today we’re launching our report entitled The role of energy demand reduction in achieving net-zero in the uk, and this has been a collaborative effort across the whole of the credits consortium. I’m Jillian Anable, I’m co-director of CREDS, I lead the Mobility theme and I’ll be chairing the event this afternoon. The lead author of the report, Professor John Barrett will introduce the key findings shortly, and then we’ll have a panel discussion around these findings. Joining John on our panel will be Caterina Brandmayr, Head of Climate policy at Green Alliance; Chris Stark the CEO at the Climate Change Committee, and Rebecca Willis, who is Professor in Practice at the Lancaster Environment Centre. CREDS is the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions and we’re funded by the UK Research and Innovation Energy Programme.
We started in April 2018 and currently have funding to March 2023. Our research focuses on reducing energy demand, improving energy efficiency and understanding demand-side flexibility, and we’re a consortium of more than 20 universities, around 150 staff from across the UK, and CREDS is led by the University of Oxford.
So this launch of the report and the panel discussion will last about an hour, and we will have a question and answer session. We’ll have time for more detailed questions in the ‘Ask the authors’ session immediately after launch, between four and five, so in this session in the first hour we’re asking if you can keep your questions to the less technical questions and save those for the ask the authors event in the second hour. We would also like you to put your questions that you have for the panel in the Q and A box, not in the chat box. So keep any technical questions about the webinar itself, any issues you have with technology whilst the webinar is running please for the chat, and put your questions in the Q and A.
Just to let you know we’re recording the webinar, and also one other housekeeping point is that it’d be wonderful if you are on Twitter, and will be tweeting during this so please follow us, and if you are tweeting you can use, or if you can tag us at CREDS_UK and also use #positivelowenergyfutures which is what we are calling this report. Okay, I’d now like to hand over to the lead author of the report, Professor John Barrett. John…
John Barrett: Good afternoon everyone, so as I said, my name’s John Barrett but this report was obviously not done just by myself, it was done with a large team from everyone from CREDS, 17 of us in total to, in essence, understand the role of energy demand reduction in achieving net-zero in the UK.
Our efforts to phase out fossil fuels are not keeping pace with our emission targets. While we have a target to reduce emissions to net-zero by 2050, the level of our emissions in 2050 is not as important as the total emissions released along the way. At current global rates of emissions we will exceed the global carbon budget to limit global temperatures to 1.5 degrees within 10 years.
In essence we have a decade to act, and we have three broad options to do this. We can decarbonise our energy, ensuring the lowest level of emissions possible per unit of energy produced. We can deploy nature-based solutions and engineered carbon dioxide removal options to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Thirdly, we can reduce our demand for energy. It is the level of our energy demand that determines the size of the energy system and our reliance on unproven carbon dioxide removal technologies. Therefore, we asked how low can we take our energy demand without impacting on our quality of life and how do we do this?
We’ve developed a comprehensive framework to estimate the UK’s future energy demand, bringing together sector-level energy demand modelling with whole-system modelling approaches to determine the role of energy demand reduction. This allows for assessment of energy demand reduction, its contribution to net-zero emissions in the short- and the long-term. These changes are developed in step with the corresponding supply-side system and its necessary technology change.
We go beyond energy efficiency options and consider energy demand reduction in terms of solutions to avoid, shift and improve, and improve the use of our energy. This recognises the need for a stronger focus on social technical dimensions of transitions. Our study provides simultaneous and consistent whole economy and sector-level perspectives. This captures the details required at the sector level, and reflects the diverse strategies that are applied across all these different sectors. The whole system perspective is also crucial to capture the linkages and trade-offs between sectors, helping ensure consistency based on our chosen scenario narratives. And this has given us four scenarios: we could Ignore, Steer, significantly Shift or completely Transform our approach to energy demand.
Our Ignore scenario shows our current pathway based on known and existing policies, and is in line with the implemented policies within the Climate Change Committee’s baseline.
- Ignore would result in a five percent reduction in energy demand.
- Steer maintains energy service demands but implements a wide range of energy efficiency measures, reducing demand by 31 percent.
- Our Shift scenario represents a 41 percent reduction in energy demand and that adds broader changes beyond energy efficiency.
- Our Transform scenario more than halves the UK’s energy demand, and considers transformative changes in technologies, social practices, infrastructure, and institutions to deliver energy demand reductions.
This involves both energy efficiency and further changes that avoid energy intensive services, or delivering the same service differently. Transform delivers numerous benefits, such as health, improved local environments, improved work practices, reduced investment needs, and lower cumulative emissions. We show that a developed country like the UK can reduce energy demand at well below today’s global average on a per capita basis, while maintaining a high quality of life.
This graph shows the energy demand reduction across a number of different sectors. Each sector was modelled independently before being brought together in a whole system model. Reductions are possible across all sectors of the economy, however, they will all involve potentially different options and reductions at different rates. In our Transform scenario all sectors, with the exception of industry, can be reduced by 50 percent. The variation exists due to a range of energy efficiency measures available to that specific sector, and the ability to maintain quality of life while reducing energy service demands. There will be a different approach for each sector. with more scope for energy efficiency for example in domestic building through the implementation of heat pumps and retrofit strategies, while in mobility, larger social changes to reduce the need to travel are considered alongside efficiency options.
Let’s have a look at how our reduction in energy demand can change the supply-side. We are clearly aware that the energy system needs to completely decarbonise by expanding the electricity system to provide for mobility, heat, and new industrial processes. The challenge is enormous – it relies strongly on high levels of societal acceptance of new technologies and presumes that the very real technical hurdles of building out new infrastructure in a relatively short period of time can be overcome.
This graph focuses on the power sector, showing the three of our scenarios. Our Transform scenario takes the pressure off the required transformation on the supply-side. The scale of investment in expanding the energy supply system is reduced by about 40 percent by 2050 compared to our Steer scenario. This graph shows the demand for power is considerably smaller in that transform scenario. Without energy demand reduction power generation would represent 150 percent increase compared to current levels, compared to a 44 percent increase in the Transform scenario. We in essence show that we can moderate the supply-side with only a moderate increase in the power sector.
So let’s see how our scenario affects our efforts to reduce our emissions. This graph shows our projected emissions under three scenarios in 2050. The Ignore scenario is not included in this graph as is not seen as a valid pathway consistent with the UK’s legally binding targets. As a reminder, that scenario describes the effects of existing policies and results in emissions of 390 million tons in 2050 and is nowhere near the UK short-term climate targets or long-term climate ambitions.
Our Steer scenario that maintains energy service demands also fails to achieve the 2050 target – 27 million tonnes short despite a 31 percent reduction in energy demand and almost complete transformation of the energy system, and 50 million tons of carbon dioxide removals. These engineered carbon dioxide removal technologies are required in the form of biomass with carbon capture and storage, labeled as electricity generation on this graph. It is only our Shift and Transform scenarios that achieve the target and at varying different levels implement energy efficiency and broader societal changes that reduce the need for energy services.
Our Shift scenario still relies on BECCS. The reliance on carbon dioxide removal technologies that have yet to be demonstrated at scale are removed in our Transform scenario. We can deliver our emission reduction by only relying on nature-based solutions to address residual emissions. The Transform scenario also has the lowest level of residual emissions, in the region of 50 million tonnes.
This final graph shows our cumulative emissions under our three scenarios. Transformed CB refers to a tighter carbon budget than the current UK commitment. The UK has consistently tightened its carbon targets over the past 15 years. While there is no doubt that the UK set an ambitious target, any increase in ambition would allow a more globally equitable distribution of the remaining carbon budget while demonstrating climate leadership, the reality is that emissions need to reduce rapidly as soon as feasibly possible. It is only an immediate focus on energy demand that can offer stronger short-term reductions, allowing us to limit cumulative emissions.
In conclusion, without substantial energy demand reduction in the UK, we will not achieve our 2035 target to reduce emissions by 78 percent. Energy demand reductions are an enabler of a cost-effective, timely and de-risked net-zero target. Given the evidence in this report, it is imperative that the UK Government outlines a detailed strategy and supporting policies to enable energy demand reduction to fulfill its necessary role in achieving rapid emission reductions in the UK. Thank you.
Panel discussion video transcript
Jillian Anable: Thank you very much John, excellent. Okay, we’re now going to move on to the panel discussion. We’re going to hear for about two minutes from each panellist before we move into the Q&A. So first off, I will ask you Caterina if you would like to kick us off.
Caterina Brandmayr: Thank you, thanks Jillian, it’s great to be here and really well done to John and the CREDS team for this new report. This is a really very useful contribution to the evidence base for how we can deliver on the UK’s net-zero missions target and particularly useful in putting the spotlight on how we can future-proof the transition and maximise the benefits to people in business, and really highlighting a set of measures that we agree deserves a significant, sort of significant more attention from government at the moment. We feel that government is strongly focused on technological solutions to cut the emissions, and the challenge is that even where we do see a recognition of the role of energy demand reduction measures, such as, for example, in the transport organisation’s plan mentioned that making public transport, cycling and walking should be the natural first choice, those commitments at the moment are remaining at the level of ambition, it’s increasingly even just rhetoric and are not backed by a comprehensive and ambitious policy plan to really deliver on those opportunities, and therefore acknowledging that this is where we’re at, at the moment, how can we make progress on this agenda and really embed energy demand reduction in the government’s plans, and I thought as part of this initial reflection I would comment on two aspects that I think needs to be addressed.
The first one is ensuring that there is greater join up across government, many of the measures that will help to reduce energy demand require coordination between different departments, and at the moment the challenge that the difference in ambition to act on climate across departments and in some cases even between sort of different segments of the department makes it challenging to develop the kind of policy coherence that is needed for systemic change of the kind that is envisioned in your more transformational scenarios, but at least we are starting to see some of those linkages sort of acknowledged in some of the recent strategies, and therefore it’s vital as we continue to develop that cross-government coherence, and we think that the forthcoming net-zero strategy that government is due to publish ahead of the of the climate summit in Glasgow really provides an opportunity for government to set out that comprehensive and joined up approach to cut emissions across the economy, and the second point that I’d comment on is about making sure that government really understands the opportunity and the need to engage the public in the transition. I think part of the reason why this agenda has been so far largely overlooked is that there is some wariness on the side of government about people’s willingness to change, but I think it’s clear that there’s strong evidence that the public is concerned about climate change, it consistently ranks amongst the top issues that people are worried about and not only are they concerned about climate change, but there’s also evidence that they back some of the measures that really would enable energy demand reduction, so for example, research that was conducted by Professor Nick Pidgeon and his team, which was published with Green Alliance a couple of years ago showed that nearly 90 percent of the people surveyed strongly believed that society should move to a more resource efficient society, and the majority support the resource efficiency even if it affected the way they lived in the future, and these findings were also reinforced more recently by work that we’ve done looking at a green taxation system which found that the majority of people think that alongside government taking more action they should also make changes to their own lifestyle.
So there’s clearly opportunity for action there, it still means that government absolutely needs to undertake meaningful public engagement and ensure that policies are designed to maximise fairness and acceptability, but this level of awareness and support amongst the public really presents a significant opportunity for government to be more ambitious in developing the kind of policies that were outlined in your report. I’ll leave it here but really well done and I look forward to the discussion.
Jillian: Superb, thank you very much indeed and bringing out some very important things that I expect will come through in the Q&A about joined up across government and also the public acceptance piece which certainly underpins all of this. So over to you next please Chris.
Chris Stark: Thanks Jillian, and can I start by just congratulating John and everyone at the CREDS consortium for all this work, it’s really, really impressive and really comprehensive as well, it’s going to give us lots to think about here at the CCC. I wanted to start by saying I hope it also gives the government something to think about because they really do need to be thinking about these issues, these are such important issues. I’m glad to have some additional evidence and balance for the arguments that we and others have been making that we do need to address the issues of consumption and demand, and you know we’re not going to get to net-zero unless we do, I think that’s the important thing to say here.
It’s a strange moment for all of us who are dealing with UK climate policy analysis or if you’re in that world, that’s all I’ve said to my team today we are waiting for a sneeze as we wait for this new net-zero strategy that’s due in the next few weeks. It’s not clear what’s going to be in that. We’re all expecting a lot of course, but it’s worth noting that the signs aren’t great that it’s going to provide the kind of demand reduction delivery plan that you’ve called for in this report. We in the CCC haven’t gone quite that far in our recommendations yet perhaps we will in the future but we do have a lot of energy efficiency, a lot of resource efficiency, a lot of the demand reduction in our pathways to net-zero, it’s very, very clear that we do need that. It’s very clear that it makes the challenge of decarbonising the economy much easier overall and I think that comes through really strongly in this report. I would also argue, as you do in this report, that the lifestyle changes that permit these changes, these demand reductions, are super positive and I think that people are more willing to change than the politicians perhaps give them credit for. I think we’ve certainly seen that through the pandemic that there are a whole host of co-benefits that come with these changes which I think are often more compelling than the climate benefits, so I hope that the government will kind of lean into this a little more, but at the moment I’m not feeling that that is on the agenda for this government, that’s why it’s so frustrating, you know they’re not making a priority of changing demand consumption which I think they should, the most recent evidence for that is the national food strategy which I think is a really excellent piece of work led by Henry Dimbleby that was a ready-made opportunity to lean into the idea of lifestyle change alongside all the changes that we need in the energy system, the improvements to health and diet that go with that. We didn’t see the government take that so I don’t feel at the moment that Defra as a department is gearing up for a big push on these kind of changes that we’ve talked about, and we should talk about in this report too.
So suppose I wanted to make one major point really, which is that it looks like there is a gap between what we at the CCC say about demand in the round and what the government is willing to do with policy. That gap looks more like a schism when I read this report, so that is definitely something that’s in my mind when it comes to looking at what the government produces over the next few weeks. I also wanted to just to commend you on the clarity that you brought to some of the sectoral challenges that fits very well with our own outlook in the CCC, there’s lots of overlap between the findings and this report and our own, but I recognise that you are going further in many areas, so we’re going to take that back and consider it properly at the CCC, and I also wanted to comment on the work that you’ve done to consider the distributional impacts of the challenge overall, that’s an area where we haven’t done so much work, seeing that the distribution of energy demand across the income distribution is absolutely fascinating, I’ve not really thought about it that way, points towards policies that can attack this problem without the additional problem of making the fairness challenge worse, so actually I think that that has become a bit of a rallying call of late, for me, that fairness is the biggest strategic challenge of all when it comes to this transition, especially as the costs come down for the technologies that can drive us there, so perhaps that brings me to my very final points on costs, that seems now in the political debate to move centre stage in the discussion of net-zero judging by my Twitter feed and judging by the slightly off-the-wall commentary that’s emerged in the Conservative Party conference this week, it does look like it’s the challenge of cost that’s kind of running through a lot of that, and that’s why this is such a good idea for the government to embrace the things that are in this report because this is a prospectus I suppose for bringing down the cost of net-zero overall, and I very much hope that the challenge for the government here is one that they take up that they don’t run away from. This energy demand challenge or the challenge of changing lifestyles. We shall see how that looks in a few weeks but it’s quite an interesting moment really for this report to come out.
Jillian: Brilliant. thank you very much Chris for all that positive endorsement in particular, thank you and Becky, we’ll come to you.
Rebecca Willis: Great, thank you, Jillian, well going third in this all I can do is add to that pile of praise that’s being heaped upon you, it’s brilliant to see this analysis and this very sort of rigorous rigorous well-crunched analysis about what can be done on the demand side and I’m sold, I mean at the very least I would ask is why did it take this work? Why are these options not sort of on the table? Why are they not generally there as options to consider by government and other policy actors when we have these discussions about how to tackle the climate crisis, and I suspect the reason they’re not is because they are linked directly to the million-dollar question of how we could do this, how we could bring about that kind of societal rather than technological transformation, and I think it comes about because we’ve been far too blinkered, and by we I mean we as a policy community including academics, not just government, and I was really struck by a phrase that the economist Geoff Mann used actually to describe what he dislikes about current economics. He has this phrase ‘the irrationality of rational expectations’. So by rational expectations he meant economists sort of assuming things will carry on broadly as they are, the eternal present or general equilibrium and this idea that shocks that hit the economy whether that be a financial crisis or Covid will somehow be overcome and will return to this normal, this eternal present and I think that insight, that there are these sort of rational expectations which are actually very irrational. This insight is really useful in climate and energy government governance, so essentially I think that we are sort of collectively assuming that we should be aiming to keep things just as they are at the moment only with less carbon, and that in terms of the role of people or society, people won’t want to get involved or change their lives, and it’s the job of policymakers to beaver away in the background to ensure that we can keep on keeping on, and so we get this incredibly narrow horizon of possibility or what, following Geoff Mann, I would call irrationality of rational expectation, and I think we have to say that we’re all complicit in this, in that if we look at the narrative, you look at the media narrative around gas prices for example, supply is always talked about, efficiency sometimes, demand almost never, and this kind of narrow horizon [ooh my lights have just gone off can you still see me?] we this this narrow horizon of possibility, this irrational rational expectation is deeply rational I think for two reasons.
The first is that we know things will not stay the same, we just know that don’t we, climate impacts, pandemics, economic shocks, we’re investing a huge amount in a stability that is illusory and impossible. Things will change, and the job is to shape that change, and the second reason that these rational expectations are deeply irrational, is that people understand that things are changing and in the work that I do bringing people into dialogue with policymakers and like Climate Assembly UK which Chris and Jillian were both very involved in it, was it’s clear if you follow these processes that people understand the scale of the climate challenge, they’re really worried and actually they don’t have a lot of trust in government to do the right thing, so this just ‘leave it to us’ narrative of government is deeply unhelpful, not least because people see the discrepancy between the emergency or crisis framing of climate change and the lack of attention to what we as people as a society should be doing, the kind of ‘don’t worry your little pretty little heads about this we’ll sort it one way or another’, so I think it’s high time that we did actually question these supposedly rational expectations that we’ve been working with, and try and open the possibility space which this report manages so well to do. So I’m not saying that it is at all straightforward to do this, but what I am saying is that the kind of approaches put forward in this report are at least as realistic a political strategy for climate as those kind of standard models and approaches and policies that have dominated so far, so at the very least these need to be firmly on the table in government, but you know, and we need, as part of that we need to accept the genuine limits to more, sort of, technologically driven approaches to the climate crisis, and the best way I think of starting that is to start challenging these irrational rational expectations, and try and open up that possibility space, do that in dialogue with people, and have a sort of sensible grown-up conversation about how demand is absolutely crucial to achieving our net-zero future.
Jillian: Thank you Becky, and you’ve directly addressed some of the questions in the chat already, but I think we’ll be coming back to how we actually have this conversation in a little bit more detail. I also just want to congratulate you for having organised some live demand reduction there during your talk with the lights going off, I thought that was a really, really nice touch, so thank you very much indeed. Okay, we have had some great questions and I’m going to attempt to do them justice, but of course I doubt that we can, but thank you all very much in advance and sorry if we don’t quite get to your question. I’m going to start with some high-level questions about the cost savings that the report has calculated but also tie that into some questions around the impact of the scenarios on economic growth. So there’s two parts to that economic growth question, there’s the assumptions that were embedded into the modelling, but also what can we say, have we said, about the degree to which the scenarios generate positive economic benefits and I’ll start with you John.
John Barrett: Right, so in terms of specifically in the modelling when I say we have cost savings, it’s simply we have cost savings associated with not needing quite the same scale of transformation and growth in the power sector for example, and other sectors, due to energy demand reduction but obviously the economic growth question is a broader one. We haven’t at this stage done a macroeconomic assessment to say that by 2050 the economy will be one percent smaller one percent bigger or five percent bigger or smaller depending on the scenario, but that is something that is planned, but what I would say is that I think it’s really important for us to actually question what economic growth is for in the first place, and in essence it’s there in essence to allow us to have a meaningful life, to have a job which we gain value from, and that is everyone has access to, and we have concentrated on those elements so maybe sometimes we shouldn’t be so obsessed about whether the economy – I’m not saying the person who asked the question is – but we shouldn’t be so obsessed about whether the economy is one percent smaller or five percent smaller in 2050, we should concentrate on what our intended outcome was of that economic growth, to improve quality of life and allow a just transition to happen.
Jillian: Can I just open that up to the panellists, if they can comment on how can we turn that particular truck around in terms of having this alternative conversation around economic growth, or, you know, the quality of life and living standards that these scenarios actually would lead to instead.
Chris: I can say something about that Jillian, if you’d like, I mean I find that kind of discussion about GDP a bit stale if I’m honest, so I’m more interested in what you premise in your question, actually, about the benefits that come directly from these kind of changes and I was hinting at that in some of my comments as well, that there are lots of what, you know, the hard core economists would call co-benefits here, huge amounts, and actually, in many cases the kind of transition that we need, and this is not just the case for energy demand reduction or lifestyle change, generally it’s across the piece, it’s the co-benefits that are the bigger reason to make some of these changes than the emission savings, so it kind of follows therefore that actually we will probably need a different set of motivating reasons to make many of these changes beyond climate change, if we want them to be successful, and I sort of, a point I occasionally make whenever I speak about this is that I think it’s worth challenging this theory of change that I think is sometimes still there, that we need everyone in this country to be a climate activist to be successful in getting to net-zero, I don’t think we do, we do need to describe these changes in a positive way so that we get exactly as Becky was talking about in her comments, we start to explore the territory that at the moment is deemed to be out of scope by policymakers because there isn’t an obvious way to get there.
I think a lot of this starts with the underlying issue of simply engaging people in a discussion about these changes and understanding what they want, and I think that’s something that we haven’t done nearly enough of, there is still too much of it being cooked up here in Westminster, and deciding that you can make a plan that will get us all the way to net-zero, I’m afraid it’s not going to work like that, so to me that’s the exciting thing about it, is getting into these positive aspects of the transition beyond, you know, what we might typically look at if you were sitting making a policy in Westminster today.
Jillian: And I would completely agree with that, but I think what underlies some of the questions and some of the skepticism is whether or not we have the right, I guess, metrics if you like and proof, evidence-base that underpins what we’re saying in this report or elsewhere about those co-benefits, so it’s one thing to have the conversation and convince, but part of convincing people is to be able to show them the evidence, and, you know, what else do we need to put together with the sort of analysis that we’ve done, that you’ve done, that others have done, to really make that case.
Not just a question for you Chris, unless you have particular evidence, but Becky, in your experience and Caterina of trying to persuade and talk to decision-makers and talk about the co-benefits. Are there things that you think are lacking in the ability to be able to make that case?
Rebecca: Yeah, I mean to link that back to the growth question, Jilllian, I mean actually economic growth as a concept is pretty meaningless to most people, you know what they would think of is what jobs are available in their local area, what does their local high street look like, much broader, much broader conception of well-being than, you know, definitely than we use in terms of GDP shorthand. That’s not to say that a healthy economy isn’t important, of course you know you need that healthy economy to be able to achieve those outcomes, but I think the co-benefits argument is important, but I think it only works if you also give the climate imperative, so we shouldn’t use co-benefits as a reason not to talk about climate, because people see through that and also it means that we lose a chance to talk about why we’re doing this, so climate is a really important reason to do stuff, right?
It will be more motivational for some people than others, but we know that it is motivational for, you know, we know that there are high levels of climate concern so absolutely say that you’re doing a policy for climate reasons, but it can’t be climate on its own, and actually politicians, I’ve done a lot of work directly with politicians, and they understand this because they have in the UK system, they have this sort of umbilical link to their local area through their constituencies, and if you ask them to view a climate policy through the lens of their constituency that’s exactly what they’ll do, they’ll take that co-benefit perspective, so I think that’s an absolute must, but not at the expense of the climate message.
Jillian: Thank you. Caterina, did you want to come in on that? If not I will…
Caterina: Yeah, if anything, just yeah to reiterate the fact that there’s growing cause really for government to look to metrics beyond indicators, beyond GDP, and I think in this group the review earlier this year really pointed out the fact that GDP only, it’s a short-sighted and very limited way of looking at promoting sustainable growth, but also to just comment on the fact that even if we look at the hard numbers about the economic potential and the potential for job creation that comes from these measures, there is a lot of opportunities to create new jobs in the circular economy in energy efficiency in buildings, and promoting public transport, in nature restoration, and green alliances, and a lot of analysis looking at the opportunities of those to create those jobs across the country, and I think there there’s really significant potential, so it’s not doing less, it’s really just doing things differently, and there’s opportunity to create new industries as part of that.
Jillian: Okay, thank you. Well, it’s not doing things less, it’s about doing things differently, so that’s what I wanted to come on to actually, because I’d say that there’s a very large number of questions that have come through that are largely along the lines of, just how much do the scenarios imply that people are going to have to change behaviour, and let’s broaden it out beyond people to think about end-users being businesses of course, and other end-users as well. So there’s a question about what the scale of that change is, so to what extent are the demand reductions coming from energy efficiency and a switch to electrification versus actual reductions and changes in behaviour.
So that’s one element of it, and then, as you can imagine, the second element of the questions around that are, what the hows that we have suggested, and so how have we suggested, what tools, what mechanisms, what policies, have we suggested, how is that going to come about. So John, I thought I’d give you just a minute or two just to try and address that, and then we’ll sort of open up for reflections as well around this idea of the scale of change required.
John: So, as we’ve built this up from sort of specialised sector models, you have to go down to the sector level detail to really understand the role of efficiency versus other measures which may be titled as sufficiency, or broader societal changes and however you wish to describe them, and that varies in each sector. One thing we’re careful of is that we’re not leaving people in cold draughty houses without an adequate diet with no access to local services, so where we do have larger broader societal changes, they are not done at the cost of key elements related to people’s quality of life. So it varies across sectors, from the building sector it’s more efficiency-driven, less room to actually reduce room temperatures for example, and so that is more efficiency driven around retrofit and heat pumps, although we do address the inefficiency of occupancy rates in houses, as well as the fact that there are second homes, the fact that we have a poor use of houses in terms of housing stock in the UK.
In other sectors they are driven by more broader societal changes, that would be the case in agriculture with the promotion of healthy diets that lead to increase in plant-based diets and addressing calorific intake, alongside some efficiency measures. For mobility we recognise that the reduction cannot be achieved by electric vehicles alone, and therefore there is reduction in distance travelled, more local active travel as part of that sort of strategy. In industry we recognise that many of the efficiency improvements have already been accessed, so we rely more on resource efficiency measures and thinking about the use of those materials and products in society, how long are they used for, moving to more circular motions and circular movement of materials. So it varies in each sector across that, and there’s sort of some insights into kind of the assumptions that we’ve taken.
Jillian: Yeah, thanks John, and I know from one particular question in the chat that people might also be wondering, as an add-on to what you’ve just said, the extent to which those propositions are empirically based or not. I know I can answer that from the perspective of the mobility work in the report and I can do so if you like just to offer in something. I think it’s as you were saying, for each sector in the report it’s done slightly differently but the general premise is that we have looked for examples in western developed economies where the curve has been pushed the most in terms of demand reduction and behaviour change, and look to understand the degree to which that could be scaled up, and how far and how fast.
So in terms of mobility we have looked around the world for where mode share and mode shift is different, and most shift has happened, how has that happened, to what extent could that be replicated here, and applied that in our models. And so that that’s one example of an answer, but you will come to understand that the report that’s published has a degree of, a number of supplementary reports which detail the methodology that we have used for each sector. So just to open up that question about the scale of behaviour change the scenarios imply, Chris, could I just ask you sort of quite a specific question, which is are you able to say from what you understand we have we’ve done so far, how what we’ve said goes beyond, in terms of the scale of demand reduction, behaviour change required, how that goes beyond what you’ve already said in the Sixth Budget report?
Chris: So I mean it goes beyond, from what I can see in most areas, and I’m up for that challenge, so we did deliberately, back in December, put together a pathway to net-zero that was designed to have more behaviour change in it, and it goes beyond even that, from what I can see, as well I was kind of asking the team if we could pull out a few stats but we’re not quite talking the same basis so I think that’s going to have to come later I’m afraid, but I mean what I think you’re doing in this report is kind of expanding the envelope of what we think is possible here, and I think that’s great, but it always comes back to this question of, as you put it the how question, and you know in our work we do constrain ourselves a bit by that question because we want to be confident that the things that we are advising can be achieved by a policy, and we don’t have a lot of good evidence that that can be done in some areas, I think that’s one of the things I wanted to kind of say about this, is that there’s lots of potential here but actually the record on policy is not great here, if you look at one of the biggest challenges of all which is of course in buildings, quite a few failed attempts now to try and influence behaviour there that have made, I think, policymakers and ministers cautious, and caution is not a great thing to have at the moment actually in some of these big challenges.
The other area I might pull out is the one Jillian, you will know best, which is on mobility and transport, and we did try to dial that up in the Sixth Carbon Budget but we came up against some quite tough challenges there, I think you’ve explored that in more detail, I am very interested in concepts like 20-minute neighbourhoods, for example, and what that might open up for us in the analysis that we do on the transport challenges. I think there’s just lots here and I can hope, I was describing this to someone the other day, that the way that the climate change act works, is that it’s almost like a game of tennis so we kind of bat the ball across to the government and they bat the ball back to us, then we’re in the moment where we’re kind of waiting for the government to volley the ball back to us and then we’ll have something to kick against, and I don’t know what they’re going to say in the round on demand reduction or in energy efficiency, or indeed on resource efficiency, but I think we will have something to then work with then, so the good thing about your report is it will give us some additional evidence then to kind of respond to that, so I suppose that’s the way I see it but what you’re clearly doing is going beyond what we have done and I think that’s right given the focus that you’ve given in this report.
Jillian: Okay, thanks Chris and Caterina, Rebecca just to pick up on a couple of things and see if you’ve got some answers. So one of the things is the fact that we can’t get away from the fact that we are talking about some significant societal changes, and there’s been some comments in the chat, Chris has just mentioned, you know, that we’re saying this off the back of some failures that we have seen, so how do we bridge that gap between the fact that the experience of implementing some quite or, well, actually, relatively modest changes compared to some of the things we’re suggesting, have been a failure and yet we’re suggesting that these are doable and necessary changes, so how do we bridge that gap.
The second thing is it hasn’t it hasn’t come up specifically in what we’ve said, but I think when we do as Rebecca was saying, kind of use the co-benefits argument to try and make everything more, I guess, palatable but certainly more doable, I think there is a danger that we skip over the fact that not everybody is going to be winners, so there will be winners and losers, and yet actually identifying those losers and who they might be, I mean I can think of one example that we have maybe pointed out and gets pointed out more often than not, is, you know, that frequent fliers or those that do the most flying tend to be the highest income people, so we can see them as a sort of possibly losing out in that sense, but how do we actually address the fact that there will be some losers, and what do we use to be able to get over those arguments?
Rebecca: Do you want me to start?
Jillian: Yeah, whoever would like to start.
Rebecca: So yeah on the is this doable question, well I mean I find it really weird that we always separate out the behaviour change stuff as if that is a separate thing and somehow harder than all the rest, because, I mean I’m going to lob in a bit of jargon here, but actually behaviour change is not independent or separate, so you know we live in what you might call – this is the jargon – a socio-material system, right, if you take something like transport or energy use in the home, it is a whole bundle of behaviours and practices and technologies, and even culture, and so the idea that, you know, we can sort of have behaviour change as a separate and independent thing is to my mind really fundamentally wrong, and why is that? Why is that an important thing to say, it’s because the solutions and the policies lie in accepting the fact that, you know, there is a mobility system and it’s not just about influencing one person’s behaviour change, about whether they drive to work or not, in fact if you do think of it as changing one person’s behaviours to whether or not they drive to work it’s almost certain to fail because, you know, the train timetable’s rubbish or the bus is really expensive, so behaviour change shouldn’t be seen as a separate thing, it should, you know, we should be seeing how we can make changes to the rest of the system, which mean that we can then apply the levers to the behaviour part of it, and you know, I think that’s my question about, that’s the answer to my question about how we do this, I think, you know, much more of a focus on how we create the right environment in which the behaviour changes become possible, and in fact desirable.
You know, some of these behaviours that we supposedly want to change them, a lot of the time the people doing them don’t necessarily want to do them, I don’t know the figures now, but a few years ago I found out that rural households in poverty spent 25 percent of their income on running a car. I don’t know what the figures are now, Jillian, you will know, you know vast amounts of money because they do not have a choice because they live in a rural area, so, you know, we don’t want make it seem like people are sort of desperately clinging on to their way of life that they really like, a lot of the time we’ll be, you know, we’ll be going with the grain of the changes they want to make, and lastly on that question about winners and losers, well I don’t have an answer to that and I’m not sure that I should. because there is an established process for deciding who wins and who loses in policy and governance, and that is politics, like it or not politics is about deciding, you know, how you distribute things amongst society and how, you know, how you distribute wealth and how you compensate people who lose out and so, you know, that’s a slightly flippant answer, but we absolutely need to acknowledge the politics in all of this, and you know politicians know that that’s why it’s difficult for them.
Jillian: Thank you, yeah, I think that was the point, it was about acknowledging it but as you say, then it’s acknowledging it first and then working out the ways to address it. Yeah, thank you. Caterina?
Caterina: Yeah, I think I would reiterate Becky’s point on the fact that policy design really does play a major role in whether, to the extent to which the public is able to engage in some of these changes, and I think some of the failures we’ve seen in the past is because of poor policy design and poor public engagement in the design of that policy, so I think going forward there is the opportunity to build, first of all, on some of the trends that you’ve seen that already indicate that the public is inclined to adopt some of these alternative ways of living.
I think there’s some measures where we already have evidence that they would be quite popular, around, for example, some of the efficiency measures around product design, around some of the trends in the younger populations, around like younger generations, around less driving, so think we can definitely capitalise on that, but ultimately I think it does also come down to meaningful public engagement on the side of government, and ensuring that the way that policies are designed account for people’s values and for fairness. Again, I will not comment necessarily on the winners and losers, but I would just conclude by saying that I think government also needs to realise that there’s a number of these levers that it can use, and I think all of those will play a role in making sure that people can really embrace some of the more transformative changes you’ve outlined.
Jillian: Thank you. Thanks. John, do you want to come back on any of that you’ve heard, just to give you a chance?
John: To very quickly just say, I just suppose I want to make the point that this isn’t an anti-technology report at any level, by the way, I just sort of want to get that across, you know, where technologies can deliver savings we fully embrace that to its maximum potential, we just recognise that that is only part of the story, and so I think we very much agree that this is, you know, part of a complex system and we understand or try to define the role of those different actors and different possibilities that exist to help us achieve those goals.
Jillian: Thanks, and while you’re on that, there’s a there is a specific question and it’s pointing to a sector, the industrial sector that we often kind of don’t talk about so much and yet the question’s pointed out that, you know, the emissions reductions are potentially harder from industry, so the question itself is kind of questioning that, and saying that that seems quite counterintuitive, but as a general point, I mean where does the analysis suggest that demand reduction is probably the least likely to need to be pushed on. Y
John: Yeah so, in industry, well as I said we have less reduction than some other sectors, and that’s for a number of reasons. One, lots of the changes that we make in resource efficiency, the savings will happen outside the UK and this is a territorial perspective on our energy demand. So, in essence there are further savings that happen elsewhere by us using resources longer and more efficiently, so there are greater savings, we just don’t capture them within the UK accounts in that respect. In some of the scenarios there’s still some, not in the Transform scenario but in the others, there is carbon capture and storage which is very energy intensive so there are less reductions in industry based on that particular factor.
We also take into account the industry that’s needed to build the new system and energy system that we want, and so therefore we would see energy demand reduction in industry happen alongside some major technological developments such as the role of hydrogen VRi in steelmaking as a good example, so in that respect we haven’t looked at fuel switching and major technological changes but we recognise the value of, let’s say, resource efficiency in short-term reductions while we’re waiting for these major sort of technological shifts to come on board, and that’s really important because it’s about the total cumulative emissions that counts at the end of the day, and energy demand offers those short-term savings which we would not be getting from future technologies which we hope to materialise.
Jillian: Thank you, brilliant. So we’re coming to the end so I thought I’d actually bring the conversation right up to date, it has been mentioned once already, but we’re in the grips of a kind of fuel crisis at the moment or certainly in terms of obviously the supply constraints and the prices, any thoughts on, you know, on that and the degree to which, or why it is that that in the grips of this particular situation the issues around demand aren’t mentioned, and is now a really good opportunity, you know, are we launching this at the optimum point, you know, what are your thoughts on how we go out there right now and inject this into the conversation?
Chris: Well, I think it’s a good point Jillian, I mean the fuel crisis and I think it’s fair to call it that now, is definitely now the main topic of discussion and I think the primary issue is that, I saw this I think in one of the one of the questions or maybe in the chat that infrastructure is sexy, you know, if you are a government minister it’s the thing, the shiny thing, that you want to announce – we certainly have a prime minister that thinks that way about it – so you know. reducing energy demand just doesn’t fit in that category and I think the challenge is to turn it into something that needs to be viewed in that way, and I’m afraid I’m not coming to you with lots of good suggestions on how to do that, but I think this report will help. I would keep coming back to this issue of cost because I think underneath all this, that is the real issue.
One of the interesting things because as the fossil fuel prices go up the relative cost of decarbonising the economy goes down, so you know this is a really good moment to be making those arguments, and the very straightforward answer to the fuel crisis that we face at the moment and no doubt we’ll face in the future because we are so reliant now on importation of fossil fuels, the very simple answer to that is to stop using the bloody things, so you know, that’s the, you know, that is the right way to frame this up, and I think there is a way of connecting that infrastructure story just as John says, this is not a report that’s against technology, there is a way of connecting up the technology and infrastructure story with the story on demand, and maybe the final point I want to make to drawing on our own analysis of that, is that even those technologies that we need to get to net-zero involve quite a high degree of behaviour change, going back to the challenge that we’ve been talking about in this panel, so, you know, driving an electric car rather than a petrol car is a behaviour change, and using a heatpump which is also, you know, really energy efficient technology is a change in behaviour as well, change in the home is something that we’ve got to kind of get our heads around.
So I think we need to kind of bring these things together to make it more sexy, to use that term, I’ll probably stop using that term after this, but, you know, that make it more politically attractive as a route, and a very final thing for me, I don’t think ministers know that it’s a political route, I don’t think they understand in as much detail as all the good people at CREDS do, about the potential here and I think that is in the end the thing that will matter, once it becomes clear that there is a lever to be pulled then maybe it will enter the discourse more actively.
Jillian: Thank you, that’s brilliant, thank you Chris and Caterina and Becca, I’d just like to give you final words, you can reflect if you like on bringing us right up to the moment and what you think we need to do next.
Rebecca: Okay great, well I want to do that by bringing in something that came up in questions but that we haven’t talked about which is how our policymaking works and specifically the role of incumbent industries in that, and that is a huge part of the current energy crisis. Basically, you know those of us whom this has happened before, you know with long memories, it’s just like you put your head in your hands when you see yet again people having to pay more money to heat their badly insulated homes, and part of that lies in how we do energy regulation and specifically how much the, you know, the big energy companies, how much sway they hold over Ofgem and BEIS, and in fact how much they are crowding out, I agree with John, this is not at all anti-innovation and anti-technology, how much they are crowding out those innovations and technologies, demand response, demand reduction smart homes, energy services and so on, technologies that actually not just require behaviour changes Chris was saying for EVs, but actually technologies that facilitate behaviour change and so, you know, it’s just so frustrating to find ourselves in this position, and for renewables to get the blame, but there is a route through, and part of that means government listening to a much wider set of actors, not just, you know, public deliberation which I focus on, but actually you know, people doing really smart, clever, techy things in the energy system for whom the policy does not support the outcomes that they want.
Jillian: Great, thank you, thank you very much and Caterina, last word to you.
Caterina: Yeah, I think I’d pick up on something that Chris was saying, which is about sort of how do we make sure that these measures are seen as appealing, as interesting or as sexy as infrastructure, let’s say, and I think there it’s really trying to break away from the concept that innovation is just related to technological innovation, is that there’s a whole different range of innovations that need to be unleashed if we really want to deliver on net-zero and I think that is perhaps where we should really try to focus government’s minds and see that as an opportunity that should be capitalised on.
Jillian: Fantastic, great, great positive finishes there, so thanks very much indeed. So I need to wrap up, thanks so much to all the panellists, that was a really great discussion and thanks everyone who has stuck around so far.
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