Friday, 30 September 2011

Real Life. Ish.

It's just about possible that someone reads this blog to find out what I am up to. Seems rather unlikely but not outside the bounds of possibility.

So, Kate, Fergus and I are living on Columbia Road in Shoreditch. It's a great spot, offering easy access to the Flower Market, Brick Lane, Broadway Market & London Field (inc. lido), Kingsland Road (yum yum Viet Grill yum yum), Hoxton Square (including The White Cube) and the city.

I am working at DECC, in a vaguely scienceish role. I no longer travel the world and engage in fruitless negotiations. At work I am particularly interested how the electricity system fits together, and how it will fit together in future. Precisely what will the mix of carbon capture (if any), nuclear (if any) and renewables be, how will it all be balanced, will electricity storage (how do you do this at scale - we don't know) play a role, what will that role be, and how will smart meters, smart grid and, well, a smart system work? And what should government be doing (both in terms of innovation support, and policy) to make it happen.

It's one thing to come up with a successful pathway using the 2050 calculator (and you really should do this), it's quite another to make that pathway happen. Particular as you don't know what technologies will be available and what they will cost in 2020, let alone 2050. The answer probably is not to build very large amounts of wind power as this might turn out to be a very expensive and unreliable way of decarbonising the electricity sector. On the other hand, if wind becomes significantly cheaper, and a reliable (and cheap) way of dealing with times when the wind doesn't blow (or blows less than needed) then wind could produce a very large fraction of the UK's electricity demand. Indeed, if you are pretty bullish you can find a route to zero-carbon electricity in the UK that relies almost entirely on wind and foregoes the need to build any nuclear or carbon capture (CCS) plant. However, the question remains (and here you have to read the small print - If there are five cold, almost windless, winter days in 2050, then up to 56 GW of backup generation capacity will be required to ensure that electricity is always available. ) - how do you back it up?

There are no simple answers to these questions. Or if there are, I'm not aware of them.

So that's me.

Kate is working for an NGO that blackmails big companies into reporting their GHG emissions.

Fergus is one (and 6 days), in a nursery 3 days a week, is growing rapidly and is beginning to talk. He can say "yum yum", "bye bye", "no" and "daddy" though his pronunciation is a little off. And he refuses to address Kate as anything other than "daddy". He does this deliberately and then laughs when we try to correct him.

You are welcome to visit. We have 5 kinds of tea in the house and a new coffee machine.

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