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Ten Steps to Net Zero Article in E&T Magazine Feb issue
Ernest
24 Posts
I'd like to canvas some forum members views if you've read the article in this months magazine. I had thought of writing to the Editor with feedback but previous correspondences have been ineffective. My views on the article. 

Engineering is a discipline and vocation grounded in numerical analysis and the application of fundamental scientific principals. While aspirational target setting and mission and vision statements are often employed in project delivery settings, the roadmap of how to get there still needs to be clearly set out. This is normally supported by the application of appropriate technology, defining a budget and the resources required,  and preparing an appropriate risk/opportunity analysis to meet a completion date. This occurs before the project is evaluated against predefined hurdles and before it receives approval and funding to proceed.
I was disappointed that the February issue of the IET magazine Ten Steps to Net Zero article, seemed to be high on the aspirational target setting, with little or no evidence of supporting numerical analysis on how to get there, or what the cost/value proposition was. Although the article highlighted the challenges and stumbling blocks there was no sense of how or even if they would be overcome at an acceptable cost. Unfortunately, this seems to be the modus operandi for what is in essence a politically driven agenda; only unswerving belief and acceptance that it will happen. The reluctance to have an engineering challenge or discussion on the how, the technologies, the cost and affordability, and the resources to meet an arbitrary 2050 deadline is disturbing. It’s an approach I’ve seen occasionally in my 35+ years experience in major resources projects, often termed by the questioning as “the King’s new clothes approach”, where its seen as unacceptable to challenge the obvious shortcomings. Reality eventually dawns, but the costs involved spiral, value is eroded and the completion date slips. A predictable outcome when aspirational targets generally represent a low probability of success starting point.
The underlying implication (and one voiced in another article in the issue) is that society needs to be re-educated with an explicit message to expect less, be prepared to pay more for less freedom of use, and be thankful that they have the moral high ground and are saving the planet. The implications for such an approach are insidious and harmful, when up to 25% of households in Scotland and over 10.3% (2.4million) in England are already categorised (UK Govt 2020 data) as being in energy poverty.  Surely its more appropriate to have a grounded and challenging engineering and scientific discussion on what an affordable and balanced energy future looks like. What the roadmap is to get there and what the realistic energy mix should be, that serves the best interests of the UK populace (reliability, availability, affordability and security), and not the egos of virtue signaling politicians or vocal minorities who do not represent society at large or its interests.
 
8 Replies
Simon Barker
839 Posts
Your response comes across as a negative anti-green rant, just as lacking in any real data as you accuse the article of being.
Ernest
24 Posts
Thanks for your response Simon. I’m not anti green energy if it meets societies needs. I’ve solar installed and see the intermittent benefit of it, and an air source heat pump. I am fortunate that I can afford to do this, but many cannot afford that cost.  What I am against is shutting down reliable energy supply, with no clear understanding of what the alternative will look like and what it will cost when so many already struggle with energy costs. 
 
Roger Bryant
288 Posts
Unfortunately the 'Green' movement does tend to be big on words but very light on actual information and numbers. This piece on hydrogen vehicles from E&T aczually has some numbers.

https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2021/02/are-hydrogen-fuelled-vehicles-a-waste-of-our-time-and-energy/

As I said in the skills thread this is an engineering problem which must be well defined before we can start thinking about solutions.

https://communities.theiet.org/discussions/viewtopic/348/27610#p155738
JoeB
26 Posts
if as much time and money had been invested into creating modern, inherently safe nuclear reactors as has been invested into windmills and solar panels, we would all have vast amounts of clean, cheap nuclear power... 
windmills and solar panels are simply a landfill issue waiting to happen. 


 
Simon Barker
839 Posts
JoeB:
if as much time and money had been invested into creating modern, inherently safe nuclear reactors as has been invested into windmills and solar panels, we would all have vast amounts of clean, cheap nuclear power... 
windmills and solar panels are simply a landfill issue waiting to happen. 


 

Wind and solar are doing fine, however much people disbelieve in them.  The price is coming down all the time.

I'm not against nuclear, but so far it's been so monstrously expensive that nobody wants to invest in it.  The government has been trying to get people to build new power stations by offering high fixed prices for decades to come (at the bill-payers' expense, of course, not the government's).  But even then, potential investors have run away.  If someone can produce cheap modular power nuclear power stations, then that could be a major contribution to our electricity needs.

kfh
143 Posts
I am in agreement with Ernest. But in my view Net Zero is not a project it is a political statement. Any potential problems are answered with "we will have a solution to that in the future which will make the problem go away". Developments will happen but relying on yet unproven technologies it is not a good way to plan for the future. I fully support trying to reduce our carbon output but so often our attempts just change the problem look at our push for diesel vehicles.

Reading the definition of net zero from the carbon trust, we as a country will be responsible only for our own territory. So if we off shore manufacturing we reduce our problem. We see the comments regarding the coal mine in Cumbria which it is not necessary as steel will be produced using new technologies but no mention if they will be more expensive. 

I have seen no reasoned debate about reducing our carbon output as anyone who raises issues is shouted down, defunded, not allowed to speak etc.
 
Ernest
24 Posts
Roger,  thanks for your post. I think your comment "the 'Green' movement does tend to be big on words but very light on actual information and numbers" is the key point at issue. The hydrogen article in your link highlights the challenge. While technically achievable, the efficiency of production and energy density at even high pressures are low, so are the costs justifiable? The last paragraph in the article recognises the dilemma, "through any impartial lens of engineering science, hydrogen fuel cell cars do not appear to be a transport winner".  This should be a flag for wider engineering involvement, challenge and analysis to develop a balanced portfolio of affordable reliable energy sources
 
Ernest
24 Posts
Thanks for posting kfh.  Hollowing out UK industry/production through higher energy costs, resulting in manufacturing/production reducing or shifting to other jurisdictions/countries with less restrictive energy policy does not reduce CO2. It simply moves it from UK production to consumption of product coming from a higher net impact location.   

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