Take a moment to sit back, relax and think how far we have come

James Timbs-Harrison, Consultant at Gemserv takes a moment to remind us of the importance of working in the low carbon sector, advising we don’t get caught up in negative press, but reminds us of the progress made in recent years

Festival Net Zero 2021

It’s easy when working in a fast-paced and demanding job to forget about why you are actually doing the work you are doing. What’s the point, why are you so stressed out? I think it’s important for me and all of my colleagues to, every once in a while, take a moment to remind ourselves of the importance of working in the low carbon sector. We cannot get caught up in the negative press and must remind ourselves of just how much progress we’ve made in recent years.

The emissions factor of carbon released into the atmosphere per kWh currently stands at 181g. For comparison, in 2013 this figure stood at over 500g. I’m not sure whether this statement makes me sound old or not, but I can remember this time clearly. I was working as the senior product manager at Mitsubishi Electric’s heating division and my time was split largely between launching new products to enthusiastic installers and grabbing multiple coffees on my way to Whitehall.

The topic in the headlights at the time with The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) (now the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)) was heat pumps. I remember spending my days persuading stakeholders that heat pumps produced marginally lower carbon emissions than a gas boiler and that, as the grid gets cleaner, their investment would deliver more carbon savings each year. At the time it seemed too good to be true, that a local authority, a hotel chain, a homeowner, or the Government would invest in a technology that would produce less and less carbon every year.

At this point, I feel like Doc Brown in Back to the Future Part II. However, here we are in 2021 with no hoverboards or flying cars, but an astonishingly low carbon grid and, I am told, self-tying shoes too! The investment in off-shore wind is delivering huge reductions in carbon and the closing down of coal power plants, with now only a few left, was an obvious stepping stone in this journey.

David MacKay, for those who remember him and his book ‘Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air’, believed that the grid would get cleaner, and electrifying the end-use through heat pumps, electric cars etc. would enable an enormous amount of flexibility in the way we produce power. My conversations with clients and colleagues have swung from persuading them that these low carbon technologies are the future to this becoming a reality that we are managing and progressing.

We are here today in the future that was predicted many years ago, and I think it’s good to sit back every now and again to recognise the achievements we’ve made, I’m even allowing myself a little smile.

 

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