Professor Catherine Mitchell introduces the course and talks through the week looking at how energy systems work and the challenges they face.
Professor Catherine Mitchell introduces governance and the central role it plays within transforming energy systems. When you’ve watched the video post a comment on how important you think governance will be for energy system change.
Throughout this course we will primarily be using Great Britain as a case study. Great Britain is a good example of a country trying to rapidly shift from a centralised, high carbon energy system to a clean, smart and flexible system and many of the lessons are applicable to other parts of the world. We will also introduce examples of change and governance from around the world and encourage you to explore other contexts in the activities and discussions each week.
There are also two important points to note about this course with respect to reducing energy demand and nuclear power. We do not have dedicated sections to either of these topics, which some may find surprising.
With respect to demand reduction or energy efficiency. We have taken it as read that action in this area is fundamental to the low carbon transition. The transformation of our energy systems will be: cheaper if the overall level of energy demand is reduced; it will be more resource efficient; and it will bring economic and social benefits to end users. If we had to choose one policy for change, it would be to reduce energy demand.
For nuclear power, we do not see it as part of a sustainable energy system. Some may disagree with this, but for a number of reasons we think this technology is increasingly incompatible with the transformation that is needed. New nuclear power is very expensive relative to other options, is politically complicated, and is too slow to build for the rapid decarbonise we need. Nuclear power also produces nuclear waste, and has other safety issues, which in an increasingly unpredictable climate is a risk of growing significance. The technology is also relatively inflexible, and managing a nuclear power station to increase flexibility incurs increased costs and higher safety risks. So we take the view that the benefits of a smart and flexible energy system are such that nuclear power is not an obvious choice. Public opinion is also not clearly in favour of it, and certainly far less favourable towards it than towards renewables.