This means that consumption reduction is central to carbon consumption reduction, and therefore real carbon emissions reductions. It is also central to understanding where our responsibilities lie - instead of complaining that China is building (insert randomly generated number) coal power stations a week, we need to grasp that many of those power stations are built to service our consumer demands and that the carbon they emit is therefore our carbon. Simply put - we're outsourcing our carbon emissions!
- If we are serious about tackling climate change, we must define targets that constrain current as well as future greenhouse gas emissions (i.e. we must take cumulative emissions, not snapshot emissions rates at points in time, to be the important measure)
- Policy-makers must focus on the lowest cost options, even if they are unfamiliar
- The full potential of energy efficiency must be exploited
- The dependence of energy security on storable fuels - chemical energy - must be recognised and addressed in strategic energy planning
- We need to be smart with heat and fuels, not just electricity
Additionally, by reducing demand strain on the grid the vulnerability of the network to shocks and demand peaks is also reduced. This in turn means that renewables, that are intermittent, can form a higher proportion of the energy mix, displacing more expensive technologies such as nuclear (which carries about the same carbon cost as off-shore wind). In short: lower grid vulnerability means we can be more picky about which generation capacity we invest in. As electricity cannot be stored well - a significant problem for the 'electrification' programme - Olivier suggests using excess renewable production at times of lower demand to manufacture synthetic biofuels, which can be used in transport and heating.
All this makes the famous 'nuclear debate' is in many ways a red herring - invest the proposed mega-sums in a radical national programme of energy efficiency and demand reduction instead, and you will remove the need for such increases in centralised supply capacity in the first place. Unfortunately there is no big commercial lobby for energy demand reduction, and very well-funded ones for nuclear and gas (as recent NoDashForGas actions showed). This, coupled with a political preference for centralised and 'conventional' solutions can help to explain why we're still stuck with inadequate and unimaginative policy options.
This is a huge topic, and there are lots of gaps to be filled in understanding how we get to a position of maximum energy efficiency, significantly reduced demand and a diverse renewables-dominated energy mix. I highly recommend reading Olivier's executive summary to find out more.
This is a challenge not just to policy makers, but to all of us, and goes right to the heart of our current economic model. But in so many ways, it makes so much sense.