Manual Low-Carbon Energy Controversies

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In part, it is due to the lack of temporal detail, the model combines everything into five-year time steps with no annual, seasonal or diurnal structure so is not capable of representing the dynamics of supply and demand realistically; it cannot model a moment when the wind does not blow. It is also perhaps compounded by the fact that the model does not allow for changes to the way that the grid could operate in the future such as smart grids and the fact that there is not enough data for advanced storage technologies to be able to model their potential effectively.

This suggests the need for further research into the possibilities of accelerated development of storage technologies to contribute to a low carbon and resilient energy system. The work done by UKERC on accelerated technology development has not yet explored accelerated development of storage technologies [ 5 ].

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A similar issue is likely to arise where the model selects nuclear and wind, as nuclear cannot be ramped up and down to balance supply. Another interesting technology shift can be seen upon closer inspection of the types of wind power deployed in the DREAD scenario. For the first time in any of the UKERC scenarios, wind micro-generation is introduced to the electricity system. Micro-generation with wind is unattractive for national provision as it has high costs and low capacity.

Its deployment that there are significant difficulties in achieving decarbonisation in the electricity sector under the constraints imposed by the DREAD scenario. In NIMBY, where coal CCS is constrained to only a few GW of installed capacity, nuclear power and wind are able to relatively easily generate the majority of the power needed by despite being modestly constrained themselves.

The ECO scenario also deploys high levels of wind and nuclear but by requires higher levels of electricity than the other scenarios due to additional electrification of other sectors. The increased electrification could be due to the increased cost of fossil fuels which make electrification a more economical choice. Other interesting shifts can be seen in the different ways that limited bioenergy resources are utilised in NIMBY and ECO the two scenarios in which bioenergy is constrained.

In NIMBY, the limited bioenergy resources are shifted to the aviation sector where they are used to make bio-kerosene. In the ECO scenario, in which bioenergy is very heavily constrained through the prohibition of imported crops as well as transport biofuels, the allowable bioenergy is still deployed. In ECO, the limited biomass that is still available is utilised in the service sector in the form of wood and later pellets.

These shifts and the continued use of bioenergy despite constraints highlight how the flexibility of bioenergy resources can help the system achieve decarbonisation—even in the light of possible constraints on sourcing and usage. The third key element of the scenario's different strategies to achieve decarbonisation under possible socio-environmental sensitivities is varying levels of demand reduction.

As noted in Section 2 , UK MARKAL MED allows for flexible demand reduction in response to energy prices, optimising the balance between the cost of supplying energy and the lost welfare incurred by any reduction in energy service demand.


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As with the various sources of energy generation, levels of demand reduction can be tracked at 5-year intervals throughout the period of the model. The level of demand reduction reported at any given five-year time step relates to the cost of supplying energy services at that point in time. Years where the available energy supply technology mix is more expensive will drive greater demand reduction than in years where the cost of supplying energy is less. Thus, the trajectory of demand reduction is not smooth but responds dynamically to the cost of supplying energy within the steadily increasing carbon constraint.

As a consequence, the outputs do not appear as simple smooth lines but can change direction in consecutive time periods. In all scenarios, including the LC scenario, there is a general trend for increasing need to reduce demand over time, reflecting the generally increasing cost of the supply mix, which is in turn driven by the increasing carbon constraint. Yet, for all three socio-environmental scenarios, the additional constraints on the system arising from the limits placed on key technologies cause some level of increased demand reduction across different sectors of the energy system such as industry residential, and transport.

The varying level of demand reduction depends in part on the relative costs of demand reduction and decarbonising power generation. The rate of change is the highest between and by which time DREAD's demand reduction has already increased to the level achieved in LC by This reflects the added cost, especially in the early periods, of making the low carbon transition whilst excluding technologies such as nuclear and CCS.

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All four scenario variants then change at approximately the same rate. For residential gas, the four scenario variants change more consistently Figure 5. All three socio-environmental scenarios explored in this paper impose higher financial and social costs than the LC scenario. The increased costs can be seen in three different measures: marginal cost of CO 2 , undiscounted energy system cost, and consumer and producer surplus. Consumer and producer surplus is used as a measure of societal welfare and is thus an indicator of the scenarios' social costs.

However, the marginal cost in some of the socio-environmental scenarios increases at a faster rate or at different times than the LC scenario. However, by the marginal cost of CO 2 in the ECO scenario is the highest and is rapidly increasing as seen in Figure 6.

The Electric Economy: achieving our low carbon energy future

The undiscounted energy system cost can be used as another measure of the financial costs of the socio-environmental scenarios. In the ECO scenario, however, the undiscounted energy system cost is consistently higher than any of the other scenarios from onwards. This suggests that the ECO constraints force the model to do much more of the expensive decarbonisation measures in order to be able to achieve decarbonisation targets.

Climate Change

If the sum of consumer and producer surplus is used as a partial measure of social welfare, it becomes evident that all of the socio-environmental scenarios impose a higher social cost than the LC scenario. However, this measure of social welfare is perhaps not the best way to envision social welfare in these types of scenarios. The constraints in these scenarios are meant to represent social sensitivities and preferences, so there should be some social benefits gained by responding to these preferences. Consumer and producer surplus, a traditional measure of welfare which theorises decreasing social welfare with increasing demand reduction, etc.

These three measures illustrate that public responses to low carbon technologies have the potential to substantially impact not only the make-up of the energy system but also the financial and social costs of decarbonisation. The way that public attitudes and responses constrain the deployment of certain technologies or resources could make decarbonisation more challenging and costly but it could also have the potential to make decarbonisation more equitable and just.

Yet, these socio-environmental sensitivities are not always included in discussions of decarbonisation; unfortunately, when they are, the focus is often on overcoming public attitudes rather than genuinely engaging with and considering public sensitivities. The level of challenge in these scenarios reflects the severity of the potential socio-environmental constraints and the stresses that those constraints could impose on the system. These stresses could make it difficult to achieve decarbonisation targets while continuing to meet society's demand for energy services.

Yet, ignoring these potential socio-environmental constraints does not stop the constraints from arising; it just means being less prepared to deal with them. Thus, if there continues to be a gap in the understanding and methods of working with public sensitivities to low carbon energy technologies and resources, it will just make the issue harder and more expensive to deal with in the future [ 58 ].

Europe’s experience with carbon-energy taxation

The scenarios suggest that important changes will need to be made to both the technologies deployed in the energy system as well as to the way the society interacts with issues of energy and climate change. One of the more extreme scenarios, DREAD, is highly dependent on wind power and has little diversity within the electricity sector. However, if society was to take such a risk averse position creating a less resilient energy system, other values and components would have to change.

This message is likely to be an unpopular one; it highlights the seriousness of the decarbonisation challenge. Two potential ways to manage an energy system under these types of socio-environmental constraints include technological solutions and a re-evaluation of priorities and choices this is a more societal solution that means involving the public in choices. These options are by no means mutually exclusive. In terms of technological solutions, there is potential for advances in certain technologies such as storage and improvements in grid infrastructure and operation such as smart grids to make the scenarios more feasible.

Technological fixes are, however, unlikely to be the only answer. This work also highlights the importance of genuinely considering and engaging with socio-environmental sensitivities; societies may need to consider their priorities and options on a personal and societal level and make some difficult choices.

It is important to note that genuinely addressing socio-environmental sensitivities and public opinions does not mean ignoring or overcoming them, rather it suggests that they need to be understood and incorporated into decisions. Aitken [ 61 ] suggests the need to better understand the social context of renewables as well as the public relationship with planning processes. Likewise, Ellis et al. Decisions about the energy system currently seem to be made whilst leaving the public a bit behind, viewing the public as a barrier to be overcome or an enabler of certain types of action rather than inherently the core group of decision makers.

This research suggests that the public actually have a more important and involved role to play because ultimately all members of society will determine the future of the energy system through the decisions they make and the way that they interact with technologies, institutions, and policies. Thus, this work calls for an increased understanding of public sensitivities around low carbon technologies and changes to the process of energy system change in order to get the public engaged and incorporated early in the process of decarbonisation.

If this does not happen early in the process of managing decarbonisation and there remains little understanding of socio-environmental sensitivities and poor public engagement, there may be subsequent choices which do not reflect prevailing social sentiments. This is likely to make decarbonisation even more challenging as there would be less time to prepare more acceptable, alternative solutions.

There is a need for further research on how best to engage with the complex area of real public socio-environmental sensitivities; scenarios such as this one are too simplified to accurately reflect the interactions of broad socio-environmental sensitivities but nevertheless attempt to begin exploring the issue using a highly utilised modelling tool. These socio-environmental scenarios have illustrated how potential socio-environmental sensitivities and public acceptance of technologies could impact the possible pathways to decarbonisation and the energy system as a whole.

Despite the fact that the scenarios explored in this work cannot fully represent the complexities of the real world and are not designed to be forecasts, they do offer useful insight into the potential types of impact on the energy system. The scenarios indicate that socio-environmental sensitivities could play a significant role in shaping how decarbonisation could be achieved, and at what cost. Accelerating the development of a suite of low carbon energy technologies could be an important way to improve the chances of achieving the decarbonisation targets given a potentially socio-environmentally constrained energy system.

As it is difficult to predict how society will respond to low carbon energy technologies and the changing energy system, having a number of alternatives available could help ensure that there are some acceptable options to achieve decarbonisation.

enter These scenarios also suggest the need for further research which could better represent the complexities of socio-environmental sensitivities and public acceptance. In reality, attitudes and acceptance are multi-faceted issues, vary immensely amongst the members of the public, and are not static over time; this makes it impossible to predict or reflect public acceptance issues with any degree of accuracy. Yet, by modelling a few simplified scenarios of possible socio-environmental sensitivities, this work is able to begin to explore the different types and severity of impacts that could be seen in the energy system.

With hope, the results from the scenarios can be used to better inform the process of decarbonisation by raising important issues about how members of the public are engaged with low carbon technologies and the process of wider energy system change for decarbonisation; these issues must be considered in order to improve the chance of achieving decarbonisation targets.

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interests regarding the publication of this paper. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List ScientificWorldJournal v. Published online Jan Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer.

Received Aug 30; Accepted Oct This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Abstract Low carbon energy technologies are not deployed in a social vacuum; there are a variety of complex ways in which people understand and engage with these technologies and the changing energy system overall.

Introduction Over the past decade, the UK government has become increasingly aware that climate change and energy security are urgent issues that will drive energy system change [ 1 , 2 ]. Socio-Environmental Scenarios 3. NIMBY Scenario Definition The NIMBY scenario represents a storyline in which the public objects to certain energy developments when they perceive the development to have direct negative impacts on their lifestyle and community. NIMBY Scenario Quantification of Impacts In the NIMBY scenario, the deployment of onshore wind power is limited based on the visual impact of the turbines, which has been identified as a key reason behind people's objections to particular wind farms [ 15 , 16 , 21 , 30 ].

ECO Scenario Definition The ECO scenario represents public objections to certain technologies and resources based on the public's perception of negative impacts on the natural environment and ecosystem services. ECO Scenario Quantification of Impacts In the ECO scenario, the public objects to some proposed onshore wind farms due to concerns about the impact of the project on bird and bat mortality and damage to the land around the turbines for instance peat bogs and construction damage.

Modelling Results 4. Open in a separate window. Figure 1. Figure 2.

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Figure 3. Figure 4. Figure 5. Costs of Socio-Environmental Constraints All three socio-environmental scenarios explored in this paper impose higher financial and social costs than the LC scenario.