Karen Turner - End of Year Reflections 2018

Professor Karen Turner, Director of the Centre for Energy Policy 

Professor Karen Turner
Director, Centre for Energy Policy

17 December 2018

With 2018 drawing to a close, I wanted to provide some reflections on what has been a very busy year for the Centre for Energy Policy. The past month, in particular, feels like the climax of a lot of hard work by colleagues across the University and beyond in building up the Centre’s activity in a number of areas. It’s worth recapping just how much has been crammed into the final weeks of 2018!

On 28 November, we saw the publication of the long-anticipated UK Government action plan on carbon capture and storage (CCS): The UK Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage Deployment Pathway: an Action Plan. The Action Plan sets out how industry and the government can work together to bring forward the option of CCS deployment in the 2030s.

The Government’s Action Plan follows on from the report of its CCUS Cost Challenge Taskforce, where we contributed evidence underpinning a final recommendation regarding the need to assess the value case to the wider UK economy. The Action Plan sets the scene on how this may be taken forward, taking up our research directly and citing a recent CEP policy brief in making the following statement:

At a local and regional level, direct high value jobs in capital intensive industries, such as oil and gas, chemicals, and other energy intensive industries have been shown to support up to four jobs in indirect employment. Decarbonising these industries, potentially through deployment of CCUS, allows their sustained contribution to economic growth both nationally and in the regions in which the industry is concentrated. This is a key reason why CCUS is being progressed in other European industrial centres such as the Port of Rotterdam. Furthermore, skills and supply chains from the oil and gas and chemicals industries could transition to service a growing CCUS industry, allowing the retention and creation of further high value jobs. (p29)

Further, the Action Plan (quite literally) puts us on the map, with the Centre for Energy Policy at Strathclyde listed as one of the leading UK Ideas centres in the Action Plan’s map of UK CCS assets (p16-17). Notably, we are the only social science capability listed.

Then just last week at the UN Climate Change Conference, Roseanna Cunningham, Scottish Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Secretary, formally announced Scotland’s Just Transition Commission. I am delighted to have been invited to serve on the Commission and look forward to contributing to the Commission’s essential work. As if any reminder were needed, the protests in France sparked by concerns about the fairness of fuel duty rises serve to highlight just how important the just transition is. We must address – and be seen to address – issues of fairness and equity in the low carbon transition. To be sure, the causes of the ‘gilets jaunes’ protests run deep and it would be wrong to conclude that climate policies are inherently unpopular – there are plenty of examples of highly successful climate measures. But what the protests do highlight is the importance of attending to the political economy of climate action. This is a recurring theme in our research and something I will be championing through my role on the Just Transition Commission.

Attending to the political economy of climate and energy action requires us to understand how climate and energy policies affect the economy, and also whom they affect across the economy. This is a theme of our current EV research under the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration flexible fund, where we are considering the economic impacts and distributional effects of the upgrades to electricity infrastructure likely to be required for the mass roll-out of electric vehicles. Essentially, we are asking ‘who ultimately pays?’ for these infrastructure extensions. There has been a lot of interest in this work, and we are discussing early findings with ScottishPower Energy Networks – our partner on the project – the Scottish Government, Ofgem, the UK Committee on Climate Change and members of the CEP Advisory Group.

We’ve also been working on energy storage – another basket of technologies where the potential value to and role within the wider political economy seems not to have explicitly featured in policy decision making in recent decades. Our paper was launched at the House of Lords on 4 December and has been taken up in an article in the National newspaper.

And finally, we have been running events, speaking at conferences and engaging with policy makers across the spectrum of our research, from our recent Energy Conversation on the potential future hydrogen economy, to a presentation at a European Zero Emissions Platform event in Brussels on industrial decarbonisation and the just transition, followed by my contribution to a panel discussion at a meeting of the Expert EU Refining Forum.

And 2019 promises to be just as busy! We look forward to continuing to work with all our partners and colleagues across research, policy and industry. Warm wishes from the CEP team for the festive period and a happy new year when it comes.

Tags: Energy