Harvesting renewable energy is 'major engineering task'
Engineering costs should be the focus if we are to satisfy energy needs and meet our carbon reduction targets, says the chairman of the Carbon Trust.
Generating renewable energy continues to offer many businesses opportunities to reduce costs and for supplying society with clean energy, however, the costs of harvesting renewables continues to far outweigh other resources, such as gas.
Chairman of the Carbon Trust, James Smith, stressed that gas and coal will continue to be sources of energy until the cost of generating renewable energy falls. He added that current energy demands would not be met through renewables unless there was a focus on creating more cost effective ways of generating the energy.
Speaking at the Carbon Show in London today, Smith said: "People say there is a phenomenal amount of energy reaching us every day from the sun, more than we would ever need. Yes, but it's very dilute and if you want to capture it you've got to harvest it and concentrate it in the same way that has already been done for us in geological time".
The chairman explained that there are specific difficulties in channelling renewable energy to reach the needs of the population and that without more functional and cheaper technology renewable energy will not be a favourable source.
"It would be nice to find something that is clean and cheap but the reality is harvesting solar energy for all the various forms we use it, is going to be a major engineering task to satisfy the sorts of energy needs we have created for ourselves, even after energy efficiency and energy management".
"Almost axiomatically, sadly, it's going to be a costly business. And I don't mean impossibly costly but it's not going to be phenomenally cheaper than oil and gas and it's going to take a few decades until we see it begin to equalise" he added.
In order to move towards a lower carbon society, Smith said the definition of green energy must be agreed.
"I guess our minds immediately go to alternative fuel and renewable energy but for me there is a realisation that what we're aiming to do is to meet our energy and carbon targets at the lowest costs".
According to Smith, generating renewable energy is not the sole aim for reducing carbon emissions but a focus should be on working with current cost effective energy resources.
"I would assert nuclear as green energy, I would assert CCS, along with coal and gas, as green energy, as is solar, wind and wave".
"Our objective isn't renewable energy, our objective is our carbon mitigation targets at a reasonable cost, which isn't to say there aren't issues around energy security and in some ways minimising long term risk, which would argue in favour of indigenous resources, although we know those are intermittent".
The chairman closed the session by saying "let's take a dispassionate view on a cost engineering basis rather than this emotional sense that this 'feels cleaner than that'".
Live from the Carbon Show in London