Author Archives: Dustin Benton

Does the Clean growth strategy live up to the hype?

9671501197_fb97e8941c_bThe journey of the government’s decarbonisation strategy, announced today, is a key to how it should be read: it started as the carbon plan, was downgraded to a compliance-focused emissions reduction plan, then transformed into a clean growth plan to match a shift in how government now sees green growth and, at the last moment, it has metamorphosed into the Clean growth strategy.

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How smart is the government’s smart power strategy?

UK Solar Energy Panel on Sunny RoofThe government’s smart power strategy, Upgrading our energy system, unveiled yesterday, is the ultimate under the radar approach. It contains 29 deeply technocratic changes (such as “developing a Balancing and Settlement Code (BSC) modification, P344”), which are combined seamlessly with the neutered language of “removing barriers” and “making markets work”. It looks boring. But don’t be fooled: if it works, this strategy will deliver radical change. But this is a big if. Read more

Cleaning up the oceans is not a solution to the plastic problem

Polluted watersThis blog was first posted on EurActiv.

Plastics have brought huge benefits to our society. But with those benefits come environmental problems. Too often, plastic ends up as waste, as marine litter polluting the oceans, or as litter on our beaches.

Lightweight, durable, and low cost plastics have transformed the products we make and consume, becoming ubiquitous through their convenience and adaptability.

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Why this week’s budget shouldn’t ignore the UK’s yawning low carbon power gap

Electricity Pylon - UK standard overhead power line transmission tower at sunset.This year the spring budget comes at an odd time for all things low carbon in the UK. In February, the government published its industrial strategy, setting out its clean growth aims as part of Theresa May’s flagship domestic economic policy. By the beginning of the summer, the government will produce a ‘clean growth’ plan, outlining how the UK will meet its fourth and fifth carbon budgets (covering 2023-32).

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Why the Treasury should go for low carbon infrastructure, regardless of climate change

9167178823_5ab2056b2a_kThis post first appeared as a Huffington Post Blog.

It was George Osborne who, festooned with hard hat and high vis, proclaimed that ‘we are the builders.’ He looked a bit silly, but his message was serious. Building things is what real people do; it’s where real economic growth happens; and it’s a real investment in our shared future. Osborne invented the line, but it is Theresa May who is doing the building. As the BBC’s business editor put it, “from beating ourselves up for not being able to build anything, the UK is suddenly building everything.” Well, almost everything. Read more

California dreaming? Environmental lessons for Brexit Britain from the ‘left coast’

Bixby Creek Bridge on Highway #1 at the US West Coast traveling south to Los AngelesJohn Steinbeck described the California I grew up in as ‘a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.’ The golden state has always loomed large in the imagination but, in my early years, much of the stink and quality of light was literal: my dad, a Los Angeles native, used to joke that he didn’t trust air he couldn’t see. That’s how bad the air pollution was.

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How can Britain keep the lights on without subsidising fossil fuels?

London nightBritain has an extraordinarily reliable power system. The lights flicker so rarely that it is easy to forget that the power system is actually a finely tuned and, in some ways, fragile machine, which breaks if electricity demand and supply are not in balance. Perturbations, such as the up-tick in demand after the FA Cup final, or the sudden outage of a coal plant, must be steadied within seconds. Read more

The nuclear option: what Hinkley Point says about UK energy policy

19020034765_a6f2962cca_bEDF’s battle for Hinkley C, a project first put forward a decade ago, has been won. It is a triumph for the political equivalent of siege warfare. Back in 2006, the European Pressurised Reactor was shiny and new, and nuclear power seemed like the cheapest route to a secure, low carbon power system. In 2016, the decision to back Hinkley feels more like an inevitability than a choice: the EPR is a dated design with some big flaws, and innovation in renewables and smart technology makes EDF’s version of nuclear look expensive and hard to deliver. Read more

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