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Decentralising the UK's energy system

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Greenpeace launched a public information campaign, Tuesday, June 20 2006 to promote a new approach to tackling climate change and energy security that would dramatically cut energy waste in power stations, slash CO2 emissions and close the looming 'energy gap'.

The campaign also aims to debunk common myths about how big a role nuclear power could play in providing Britain's future energy needs or tackling climate change.

Key facts Edit

  • The current system of centralised energy generation in big, remote power stations is hugely inefficient. Large coal, gas and nuclear power stations generate electricity, which is then transmitted on a grid to where it is needed, often many hundreds of miles away. Separately we burn gas for heat and hot water. In this system two thirds of the energy generated is wasted as heat, for example as steam up a cooling tower. In fact, the heat loss is so large, that it is equivalent to all the heating and hot water needs in the Uk's buildings [1].
  • By contrast, in a decentralised energy system, electricity is generated close to where it is needed, so that the heat, which would otherwise be wasted, can be used in the surrounding homes, offices and factories. These local energy generators are called Combined Heat and Power stations, and are up to 95% efficient, more than double the efficiency of centralised power stations [2].
  • Efficiently capturing almost all available energy from the fuel in this way, whether it is coal, gas, or greener fuels, would considerably lower CO2 emissions. In fact, according to energy experts, CO2 emissions could be up to 30% lower if the UK opts for decentralised energy as opposed to building new nuclear power stations [3].
  • By cutting out the waste, a decentralised energy model would effectively close the energy gap, helping to meet both our electricity and heating needs while reducing the use of gas overall.
  • Decentralised energy is already delivering results in other countries. The entire city of Rotterdam, for example, runs on decentralised energy, as does over 50% of Denmark, and across Europe major cities such as Malmo, Copenhagen and Helsinki have all adopted decentralised energy on a large scale. The Mayor of London has already started working towards creating a decentralised energy network for London.

Notes Edit

  1. Calculated from Energy Flow Chart, DTI, 2001 with assistance of Paul Woods, PB Power.
  2. On the essentials of combined heat and power (CHP) in the Netherlands, Kees Den Blanken, Director, Cogen Nederland, April 2006.
  3. According to the WADE economic model (which has been used by UK Government in an assessment of China) when applied to the UK, a decentralised scenario delivered predicted CO2 emissions 17% lower than a centralised nuclear scenario when both assumed the same demand growth. Under an alternative decentralised scenario where renewable technologies and energy efficiency were also pursued more aggressively the CO2 cuts were 30% less than the centralised nuclear scenario. Decentralisation is widely seen as the optimum system to stimulate renewable energy and energy efficiency development. See Decentralising UK Energy: Cleaner, Cheaper, More Secure Energy for the 21st Century, Greenpeace, 2006, www.greenpeace.org.uk/wade.

Reference Edit


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