Energy policy

In October 2011, a British Pugwash working group launched a project to provide information in support of a public debate on how to balance the UK’s supply of and demand for energy between now and 2050, without reneging on the government’s commitment to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases by 80 per cent by 2050.

In July 2010 the Department of Energy and Climate Change had published its ‘2050 Pathways Analysis’. The department also published software which would help individual members of the public to construct their own preferred ‘pathway’. Professor David MacKay, then Chief Scientific Advisor to DECC, appealed to the British public to engage in “grown-up conversations” on this subject.

Responding to this appeal, the British Pugwash group’s work covered technical, economic, environmental, social, safety, nuclear proliferation and other aspects of the energy issue. Recognising that consensus on a single way forward would be very difficult to achieve, experts were invited to ‘champion’ three credible options, ranging from High Nuclear to High Renewables.

British Pugwash launched its expert report Pathways to 2050: Three possible UK energy strategies at a discussion meeting on 14 February 2013. The report, published with support from Network for Social Change, discusses three possible UK energy strategies, constructed using the ‘Pathways to 2050’ Calculator, which was made publicly available by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Each strategy – ‘High Nuclear’, ‘High Renewables’ and ‘Intermediate’ – achieves the UK’s commitment to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by 80% by the year 2050, using energy technologies which either exist or can reasonably be expected to be brought to sufficient technical and commercial maturity in time.

The report was also presented at a meeting of the Oxford Energy Society on 8 May and at the 27-30 October 2013 conference of the European Physical Society (EPS) in Budapest. At that meeting, Dr Christopher Watson was invited to join its Energy Group, and attended the following meeting in Lisbon on 13-14 November 2014 where a ‘Position Paper’ on European Energy policy was discussed, and finalised by correspondence in January 2015. We hope to present the conclusions at the EPS Energy Science and Technology Conference in Karlsruhe on 20-22 May 2015.