Poorest households hit hardest by UK climate change levy despite using least energy

John Barrett, University of Leeds and Anne Owen, University of Leeds

The UK is one of the leading countries in addressing climate change. As well as signing international agreements, the country has its own target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. And as part of the effort to meet that target, the government has added a levy to business and household energy bills. The average household energy bill is around £1,030 a year and the levy costs an average of £132 (2016 figures).

The good news is that the levy is working. About 20% of the levy is spent on improving the efficiency of homes. This is done by funding schemes such as the Energy Company Obligation, which provides insulation and other energy-saving measures to low-income households. The average household energy bill would be £490 higher without these improvements. The money is also spent on research to improve renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, and help bring down their cost.

But is this really a fair way to raise the money? Our new research shows that the poorest households not only are hit hardest by the levy but also receive less money back in the form of home improvements than they contribute in the first place.

To study the levy, we divided the UK into “income deciles”, ten groups each representing 10% of the population, divided from the lowest to the highest income. We then looked at how much energy use they were responsible for, both directly through their electricity, gas and fuel use, and from the other goods, services and infrastructure they use. The levy is only raised on a limited number of these “energy service demands”, namely home heat and power. So if your overall energy demand is higher for heat and power and lower for other services, you’ll pay a proportionally higher amount of the energy policy costs.

Energy demand by income decile (group 1 lowest income, group 10 highest) and energy service.
University of Leeds, Author provided

We found that, in a year, the richest households each consumed on average the same amount of energy that would be produced by 12.7 tonnes of oil, compared to 3.3 tonnes for the poorest households. But the poorest spent a much greater proportion of their income (10%) on energy than the richest (3%). And the energy used for heating and powering their homes – the part that their climate change levy bill is measured on – represented a much greater proportion of their overall energy use.

This means that adding the climate change levy to household energy bills hits the poorest households hardest. Energy bills account for a much greater share of their household income and more of their energy use is charged. In fact, the levy only affects a quarter of the total energy consumption of the richest households, compared to 53% for the poorest households. As a result, the richest homes use nearly four times more total energy than the poorest but only pay 1.8 times more towards energy policy costs.

One argument for the climate change levy is that poorer households benefit more because part of it is used to improve the efficiency of their homes. But we estimate that the poorest 10% of households currently pay £271m a year towards the levy, while the costs of the Carbon Savings Communities and Affordable Warmth schemes, which are designed to help the poorest homes, come to just £220m a year.

Fairer alternatives

We also compared the system of adding a levy to household bills to two other ways of funding energy policy. The first was adding a levy to the energy bills of businesses (including energy suppliers), at least some of which would be passed on to households who buy their goods and services. The second was paying for the policy with money raised from income tax.

The proportions of household income required to meet the cost of three ways of funding energy policy.
University of Leeds, Author provided

We found that the household levy is the most regressive system. Costs are placed purely on household bills, with the richest households paying 0.16% of their income compared to the poorest paying 1.5% (over nine times more).

Adding a levy to business bills is an improvement. Under this system, the richest homes pay 0.19% of their household income and the poorest pay 1.05% (still nearly six times more).

But funding energy policy from income tax would mean that the lowest income households wouldn’t contribute at all and the richest households would pay 0.5% of their income. Compared to a household levy, this approach would reduce costs for 70% of UK households, while the richest 30% would see an increase. The lowest income group would save £102 a year, at an additional cost of £410 for the richest households – which, at less than £8 a week, would make a relatively small difference to their lives.

The ConversationOur analysis shows that the more you earn, the greater your energy demand, yet this is not reflected in current energy levy policy. It’s important to make sure that the costs associated with low carbon transitions are met by the households that cause the problem and those who can afford it, instead of hurting poorer households. We see it as essential that climate policies are compatible with social justice. Our research demonstrates it is clearly possible to design a system that is both fair and effective.

John Barrett, Professor of Energy and Climate Policy, University of Leeds and Anne Owen, Research Fellow in Sustainable Consumption, University of Leeds

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Four tough actions that would help fight the global plastic crisis

Christine Cole, Nottingham Trent University

The environmental impact of plastic is finally receiving the attention it deserves. This is partly down to the BBC’s Blue Planet II highlighting the problem of ocean plastics. But it’s also because the Chinese government has recently imposed quality restrictions on the import of recyclable materials, in an attempt to address domestic concerns over pollution and public health.

Beijing’s move in effect closes down the export of recyclable plastics, paper and other materials from the world’s richest countries. The UK, rest of Europe, US, Australia and others have for a long time been dependent on China to take the poor quality materials that they collect and do not have the infrastructure or capacity to use themselves. Until more recycling plants are built to deal with it domestically, the UK faces a build-up of plastic waste.

Other countries in Asia will continue to accept some of the lower quality materials, but this is a temporary fix at best. Sending plastic to India, Vietnam or Cambodia instead of China may limit the amount that has to be stored, placed in landfill or burnt in the UK, but it does nothing to reduce the overall amount of plastic.

We cannot simply rely on the actions of concerned individuals. What’s needed goes beyond reusing plastic water bottles, stopping using plastic drinking straws and taking reusable bags to the supermarket.

Here are a few suggestions:

Recycle quality – not just quantity

1940s poster: ‘[there are] ENOUGH BOTTLES to meet easily all demands … if these bottles are kept busily working’

Recycling targets tend to focus on quantity, but the quality of materials collected is just as important. Recycling “quality” refers to how clean and well sorted individual materials are. Poorly sorted materials are referred to as “contaminated”, and it is this that China will no longer accept. (If you want to avoid contaminating your recycling collection, check out these top tips).

If the UK improved the quality of the material collected for recycling, it could still be sent to China. This would require a nationwide collection system for materials suitable to be used again (recycled). This may take the form of reworked household collections, comprehensive collections from business premises, or a revival of the “deposit and return” schemes that once covered glass bottles and today could also include plastic bottles, drinks cans or coffee cups.

Stop collecting stuff for the sake of it

Recycling collections from households are often criticised for being inconsistent and confusing. It is important to remember that local authorities do not themselves “recycle”. They collect waste and, separately, materials like glass bottles or cardboard boxes which are suitable for recycling.

After they have been collected these separated materials become secondary raw materials, which are only truly recycled when they are actually made into something else. Local authorities collect the materials that can be reprocessed into something else.

If the infrastructure to sort certain items or materials does not exist locally (as with some crisp packets, polystyrene take away boxes or coffee cups) it is only sensible for those items not to be collected. So stop collecting things for the sake of it, put in place the facilities to deal with a wider range of materials or ban the difficult to recycle materials.

Boost demand for recycled plastic

Countries like the UK need to develop their own demand for recycled material. This means supporting manufacturers to develop technology that can use it where possible.

Alternatively, the government could impose mandatory recycled content for various plastic products. Coca Cola, for instance, recently announced that by 2020 its bottles will contain 50% recycled material. This is a step in the right direction, but why only 50%? If this target was increased the sheer scale of production means there would be a huge impact.

Coca Cola makes more than 100 billion single-use plastic bottles a year, according to Greenpeace.
AS photo studio / shutterstock

Producers must be held responsible

Increase producer responsibility for the plastic products they place on the UK market. Existing arrangements could be reformed so that they encourage recyclability to be built in at the design stage, while incentivising the maximum use of recycled content. Regulations could tax or ban the use of non-recyclable products or those that use particularly difficult materials, and they could ban some single use plastic products (France has already done this). A 25p charge has recently been suggested to control the use of non-recycleable or hard to recycle coffee cups in the UK, which may reflect the success the 5p carrier bag charge had in reducing the number of single use plastic bags used by shoppers.

Pringles containers and Lucozade bottles have recently been highlighted as problems. The combination of multiple materials used to make them mean they are difficult to recycle without specialist techniques not available in most UK processing plants. Black plastic used for ready meal containers is also difficult to recycle and creates the kind of contamination problems the Chinese are trying to avoid. Why is this material still being used if it is recognised to be a problem and there are economic alternatives?

Let’s take advantage of the current mood. While there is a public focus on plastics, people should learn more about their purchasing decisions and recycling actions. On a larger scale, it is at times of crisis or failure that policy makers become open to new ideas, or old ones recycled. This is one such failure which offers a real opportunity to wake up and improve our environmental impact.

Christine Cole, Research Fellow, Architecture, Design and the Built Environment, Nottingham Trent University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

China bans foreign waste – but what will happen to the world’s recycling?

Christine Cole, Nottingham Trent University

The dominant position that China holds in global manufacturing means that for many years China has also been the largest global importer of many types of recyclable materials. Last year, Chinese manufacturers imported 7.3m metric tonnes of waste plastics from developed countries including the UK, the EU, the US and Japan.

However, in July 2017, China announced big changes in the quality control placed on imported materials, notifying the World Trade Organisation that it will ban imports of 24 categories of recyclables and solid waste by the end of the year. This campaign against yang laji or “foreign garbage” applies to plastic, textiles and mixed paper and will result in China taking a lot less material as it replaces imported materials with recycled material collected in its own domestic market, from its growing middle-class and Western-influenced consumers.

The impact of this will be far-reaching. China is the dominant market for recycled plastic. There are concerns that much of the waste that China currently imports, especially the lower grade materials, will have nowhere else to go.

This applies equally to other countries including the EU27, where 87% of the recycled plastic collected was exported directly, or indirectly (via Hong Kong), to China. Japan and the US also rely on China to buy their recycled plastic. Last year, the US exported 1.42m tons of scrap plastics, worth an estimated US$495m to China.

Plastic problems

So what will happen to the plastic these countries collect through household recycling systems once the Chinese refuse to accept it? What are the alternatives?

Plastics collected for recycling could go to energy recovery (incineration). They are, after all, a fossil-fuel based material and burn extremely well – so on a positive note, they could generate electricity and improve energy self-sufficiency.

They could also go to landfill (not ideal) – imagine the press headlines. Alternatively, materials could be stored until new markets are found. This also brings problems, however – there have been hundreds of fires at sites where recyclable materials are stored.

Time to change our relationship with plastic?

While it is a reliable material, taking many forms from cling film (surround wrap) to flexible packaging to rigid materials used in electronic items, the problems caused by plastic, most notably litter and ocean plastics, are receiving increasing attention.

One way forward might be to limit its functions. Many disposable items are made from plastic. Some of them are disposable by necessity for hygiene purposes – for instance, blood bags and other medical items – but many others are disposable for convenience.

Looking at the consumer side of things, there are ways of cutting back on plastic. Limiting the use of plastic bags through financial disincentives is one initiative that has shown results and brought about changes in consumer behaviour. In France, some disposable plastic items are banned and in the Britain, leading pub chain Wetherspoons has banned disposable, one-use plastic drinking straws.

Deposit and return schemes for plastic bottles (and drink cans) could also incentivise behaviour. Micro-beads, widely used in cosmetics as exfoliants, are now a target as the damage they do becomes increasingly apparent and the UK government has announced plans to ban their use in some products.

This follows similar actions announced by the US and Canada, with several EU nations, South Korea and New Zealand also planning to implement bans.

Many local authorities collect recycling that is jumbled together. But a major side effect of this type of collection is that while it is convenient for the householder, there are high contamination levels which leads to reduced material quality. This will mean it is either sold for lower prices into a limited market, will need to be reprocessed through sorting plants, or will be incinerated or put in landfill. But changes to recycling collections and reprocessing to improve the quality of materials could be expensive.

Alternatively, recycled plastic could be used to provide chemicals to the petrochemical sector, fuels to the transport and aviation sectors, food packaging and many other applications.

The ConversationThe problems we are now facing are caused by China’s global dominance in manufacturing and the way many countries have relied on one market to solve their waste and recycling problems. The current situation offers us an opportunity to find new solutions to our waste problem, increase the proportion of recycled plastic in our own manufactured products, improve the quality of recovered materials and to use recycled material in new ways.

Christine Cole, Research Fellow, Architecture, Design and the Built Environment, Nottingham Trent University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

CIE-MAP win global waste management award

Members of the CIEMAP team based at Nottingham Trent University were runners up in the ISWA global waste management publication award.

The International Solid Waste Association Publication Award was created to honour the author(s) of publications deemed to have made an exceptional contribution to the field of solid waste management. An international panel of judges chose three publications.

The CIEMAP researchers Christine Cole, Alex Gnanapragasam and Tim Cooper came second in a strong field with their paper ‘Towards a circular economy: exploring routes to reuse for discarded electrical and electronic equipment‘ (Science Direct, 2017, Elsevier).

The paper looks at ways old electrical equipment can be utilised more effectively via repair, reuse or recycling to reduce the carbon footprint of the items. The alternative is transporting the discarded equipment to the landfill at high cost to the economy and the environment.

Read more on the team’s work in their blog on The Conversation website.

Read more about the ISWA publication award.

CIE-MAP Evaluates the Potential for Industrial Energy Demand Reduction and Decarbonisation in the Chemicals Sector

Chemicals are a complex collection of many diverse and interacting sub-sectors covering a wide range of feedstocks, processes and products. It can be characterised as being heterogeneous; embracing a diverse range of products (including advanced materials, cleaning fluids, composites, dyes, paints, pharmaceuticals, plastics, and surfactants). Physical outputs are moved around on an international scale within or between major companies that are truly multi-national. The industry is also highly focused on private R&D and protective of information, meaning that data availability is particularly poor. This high technology sector takes full advantage to modern developments in electronics and information and communications technology (ICT), such as for the automatic control of chemical process plants and automation in the use of analytical instruments. The scale of operation of chemical firms range from quite small plants (of a few tonnes per year) in the fine chemicals area, where high purity is required, to giant ones in the petrochemical sector. Batch production is employed by SMEs where small quantities of chemicals (up to around 100 tonnes per annum) are required. In contrast, continuous plants are typically used in cases where a single output, or related group of products, are demanded with plants of several thousands to millions of tonnes per year. They often produce intermediates which are converted via downstream processing into a wide range of products, such as benzene, toluene and xylenes (BTX), ethylene, phenol, and PVC from petrochemical refineries or via ammonia plants. Overall, the chemicals sector gives rise to the highest industrial energy consumption; mainly due to low temperature heat processes (30%), electrical motors (19%), drying/separation processes (16%), and high temperature heat processes (11%). It accounts for some 19% of GHG emissions from UK industry – the second largest sector after steel.

This strategically important sector for the UK has been studied by CIE-MAP researchers at the University of Bath (Geoff Hammond and Jonathan Norman, along with former PHD student Paul Griffin)*. They employed a Pareto-like approach in order to evaluate the opportunities and challenges of industrial energy demand reduction and decarbonisation in the chemicals industry [see the Sankey energy flow diagram below]. Sub-sectors that use a large amount of energy were prioritised via bottom-up studies, and emissions from those that could not easily be treated in this way were estimated via ‘cross-cutting’ technologies. The improvement potential of various technological interventions were identified, and currently-available best practice technologies were found to the potential for further, short-term energy and CO2 emissions savings in chemicals processing. But the prospects for the commercial exploitation of innovative technologies by mid-21st century are far more speculative. A set of industrial decarbonisation ‘technology roadmaps’ out to the 2050 were also developed, based on various alternative scenarios. These illustrated possible low-carbon transition pathways that represent future projections which match short-term (say out to 2035) and long-term (2050) targets with specific technological solutions so as to meet the key energy and carbon saving goals. These roadmaps help identify the steps needed to be taken by industrialists, policy makers and other stakeholders in order to ensure the emissions reduction from the UK chemicals industry. The attainment of significant falls in carbon emissions over the period to mid-Century will depends critically on the adoption of a small number of key technologies [e.g., carbon capture and storage (CCS), energy efficiency techniques, and bioenergy], alongside a decarbonisation of the electricity supply.


* Griffin, P.W., G.P. Hammond and J.B. Norman, 2017. ‘Industrial energy use and carbon emissions reduction in the chemicals sector: A UK perspective’, Applied Energy: available online 12th August [DOI: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2017.08.010].

Research Video: Industrial Energy, Materials and Products


Here is a short video with contributions from members of the team talking about their research into Industrial Energy, Materials and Products.

The two and a half minute video features various members of the centre describing their work and their overall mission to look at the entire life-cycle of products used in the UK.

The centre as a whole aims to pinpoint areas where energy reductions are possible through changes in design, materials, industrial processes, consumer behaviour and product longevity.

Alex Rodrigues and Kyungeun Sung participated in CIED Summer School

Alex Rodrigues and Kyungeun Sung participated in The Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand (CIED)’s first Summer School on Accelerating Innovation to Reduce Energy Demand. The Summer School took place between 10th and 12th of July 2017 at the University of Sussex, Brighton, UK. Twenty eight doctoral, postdoc and early career researchers from multidisciplinary backgrounds including Alex and Kyungeun attended the Summer School to learn and discuss about socio-technical approaches, governance, policy mixes, and roles of users and intermediaries for accelerating low carbon innovations (or sustainability transitions).

The speakers included Prof. Frank Geels, Dr. Paula Kivimaa, Dr. Karoline Rogge, Prof. Johan Schot and Prof. Benjamin Sovacool.

To read the blog about the Summer School, please click here.

To view the list of presentations, please click here.

Having more, owning less: how to fight throwaway culture

File 20170724 11666 9pmrin
Waffle making with rented waffle maker from the Library of things.
[Sebastian Wood/Library of Things]

Until the advent of cheap credit and cheaper item costs, for many consumers in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s rental was the most accessible way of obtaining products such as televisions, video recorders and washing machines that were high cost and frequently required repair. Now we buy cheap and pile high or just chuck out when something stops working – even if we could fix it.

The consumption of household goods in Western society is now at its upper limit, so much so that Steve Howard, Ikea’s head of sustainability, said it had reached “peak stuff”. While he was quick to say that this did not contradict Ikea’s target to double sales by 2020, he suggested a break from a prevailing “take, make, use, throw” economic model towards a circular model that encourages repair, reuse and collaborative ventures that share the use of products.

At the heart of the circular economy is the sharing economy, in which products and services are leased for a time. It’s about access rather than ownership, and any number of things can be shared, from transport, property and consumer goods (such as tools and kitchen appliances), as well as skills and knowledge.

Care: paying it forward.

Participation in the sharing economy lets you use under-utilised assets and even spare time to earn additional income.

To the future …

There have been routes to borrowing items for many years – hiring formal clothing for events, for example, or car sharing schemes that are now commonplace in many cities. And despite more recent funding cuts, public libraries still offer access to books, music and films, while big businesses such as Amazon Kindle, Netflix and Spotify mean there is no need to actually own physical, hard copies of media items.

But sharing, borrowing and reusing is now becoming something that businesses are actively engaging in. Take the Riversimple Rasa – a hydrogen fuel cell car that has been designed specifically within a car-share business model.

The Rasa.

After an initial failure, SpaceX’s attempts to recover and reuse its Falcon 9 booster met with success, and in 2017 one recovered booster was used to launch a communications satellite. Rival company Blue Origin is also developing its reuseables. It means that in the age of space travel, we may already be taking advantage of cheaper, recycled technology.

Falcon 9 launch in March 2017.

Libraries of things

Back down to Earth, local community schemes have the potential to share expensive and rarely used items and change the way household goods are consumed. Grassroots examples include the Library of Things in London, a community business providing low-cost access to items such as DIY tools, sewing machines, camping and gardening equipment, carpet cleaners, projectors and musical instruments.

While sustainability is at the heart of the project, which resists an own everything, throwaway culture, the library is also a social space with a practical purpose. It reinvents the traditional models of renting, swapping, bartering and gifting, and also offers a place to meet and learn new skills through classes, workshops or one-to-one instruction in cooking, sewing, furniture making and general DIY skills.

This kind of scheme empowers people to use the items they borrow and to do things for themselves. And given that the average electric drill is in use for just 15 minutes each year, and is kept in storage for the rest of the time, it’s clear that many “household” items don’t really need to be owned at all. And sharing or borrowing means a better environmental impact.

More for less

The right to ownership and property is deeply rooted in Western culture for reasons from social status to convenience. Nevertheless, increasing the number of items that are leased or rented is feasible – the sharing economy offers financial savings and access to better quality goods in the short term, while reducing people’s personal carbon footprints, and in the case of projects like Library of Things and repair venture, Restart, a greater sense of community and skills sharing.

Established businesses may see these enterprises as a threat to their business models. After all, if consumers share or rent things, this might impact on sales. However, it could instead incentivise manufacturers to produce more reliable, durable products which they would retain ownership of and lease to consumers, remaining responsible for maintenance and replacement costs. This would mean further incentives to design and produce longer-lasting, reliable products which could easily be repaired or re-manufactured and passed onto less demanding customers at a lower cost.

The ConversationSharing as part of a circular economy promotes better efficiency in materials, which reduces the lifetime carbon emissions of products that are designed and maintained for optimum life spans and used more intensively. It allows for a growth in consumption without the corresponding demand for resources. This is one area that needs addressing if we are to stand a chance of reaching the targets set in the Climate Change Act and meeting commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Christine Cole, Research Fellow, Architecture, Design and the Built Environment, Nottingham Trent University and Alex Gnanapragasam, Research Fellow in Sustainable Consumer Behaviour, Nottingham Trent University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Living in a Material World: A Win-Win for Improving Energy Efficiency?

An 80-95% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions produced within the EU by 2050 from 1990 may sound impressive, but it is not the whole story, as we discuss in a new paper published in Climate Policy.

The EU’s ‘Hidden’ Carbon Footprint

There is more than one way to calculate national carbon footprints and the way emissions are currently counted casts EU countries in a favourable light. Climate targets focus on greenhouse gases produced within the EU, not those required to support the consumption of its residents. While emissions produced within the EU’s territory – by its factories, power plants, buildings, cars and so on – are declining, emissions driven by EU consumption are rising.

Greenouse gases become embodied in products as energy is used, transforming raw materials into buildings, clothes, phones or cars. Some of these materials and products will be mined and manufactured abroad, and the EU imports more than it exports. As a result, the EU ‘consumes’ about 40% more emissions than it produces.

In our research, we looked across the whole EU supply chain (including overseas territory) to see where greenhouse gases are expended in the materials, transportation, construction, use, disposal and replacement of everything from buildings and cars to furniture and packaging. We calculated how many of these emissions are included/excluded from existing EU climate policies and whether policies could be extended to capture additional emissions as materials are transformed into products. Cutting carbon along product supply chains can also reduce production costs, so addressing the full supply chain emissions could realise cost savings too.

Climate Policies Neglect Supply Chain Opportunities

The EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) is not doing enough to incentivise low carbon innovations in energy intensive industries and even if it was effective, the industries it addresses only produce 45% of the EU’s emissions. Alongside renewable energy targets, the EU’s climate package relies on energy efficiency measures to deliver its climate targets. Energy efficiency standards have made progress in reducing the energy consumed when using electronic goods, heating buildings and driving cars (i.e. in use). Yet this does not address all the energy needed to produce the EU’s homes, cars, phones, roads, food etc.

Taking a closer look at buildings and cars purchased by EU residents: the EU’s Building Performance Directive tackles the energy efficiency of buildings in use. However, an equivalent amount of the carbon used to heat buildings (i.e. in use) is used in their construction. Whilst 30% of the supply chain emissions are produced in sectors covered by the EU ETS (mainly power and material processing sectors), and are arguably addressed by existing climate policies, 30% sit outside EU climate policy altogether.


For cars, we can see that nearly three quarters of the supply chain carbon is emitted when driving (i.e. in-use) and subject to energy efficiency standards. All in all, however, 20% is left outside the scope of EU climate policy.

Extending European Energy Efficiency Standards to Include Material Use

This same analysis we have applied to cars and buildings can equally be applied to appliances, electronics, furniture, clothes, packaging etc. Their supply chains emit the equivalent of 40% of EU production emissions, with two thirds completely outside the scope of existing policies. Therefore there is significant potential for EU product policies to address climate change in this area.

Energy efficiency regulations and standards could be extended to include embodied emissions. For example, the Ecodesign Directive, the EU’s tool to improve the energy efficiency of electronics and appliances,  does have a mechanism to address some aspects of embodied emissions, including promoting easy to repair designs which would reduce emissions embodied in material use. However, this was introduced when embodied emissions data was sparse and of poor quality. Without mandatory material efficiency standards this has not been utilised.

By addressing material efficiency alongside energy efficiency our research indicates that these measures can enhance the policy package for climate mitigation. There is however work to be done on designing the right policies to exploit these opportunities and this needs to be underpinned by a mainstreaming of knowledge of embodied emissions flows into policy, as well as research. In the ideal scenario we can provide a truer picture of the EU’s carbon footprint while simultaneously uncovering ways to substantially reduce it and save costs in the process.


Read the original article here.

CIED-CIEMAP workshop held on implications of Energy Return On Investment (EROI) for energy policy

A one day workshop in London examining relations between energy and economic growth on 30 June 2017 brought together over 30 representatives of the research, policy, and finance communities. The workshop focussed on the concept of Energy Return On energy Investment (EROI) and its potential implications for energy policy within government and the wider energy / economic policymaking community.

Energy Return on Investment (EROI)

The metric of Energy Return on Investment (EROI) measures how much energy is needed in any extraction process to deliver a quantity of energy output.

Trends in EROI can provide useful information around the changing quality of an energy resource, and the relative impacts of physical depletion and technological improvements. In the transition to a low carbon economy, awareness of this measure and its economic implications could provide a useful addition to the suite of analytical tools that inform energy policy development.

The role of energy in economic growth

During the workshop, speakers outlined the need to consider the role of energy as both an enabler of economic growth, and as a potential constraint on it. Conventional economic models tend to equate the importance of energy in the economy to its cost share, around 5 to 10% of GDP, but other theoretical and empirical approaches suggest that it plays a much more important role in economic growth.

Importantly, it was shown that the energy return on investment from conventional fossil fuels is in decline, and there is a wide range of estimates for the EROI of renewable energy sources, some of which are relatively low. This could lead to what one speaker called the “Red Queen” effect, whereby it is necessary to run harder just to stand still in economic terms – since it requires increasing effort to obtain the same amount of energy. Some speakers argued that an economy needs a certain level of net energy to maintain and grow economic output, but there were different views on the level of net energy that would be needed to sustain and grow the UK economy.

Future research needs

Despite differing views, there was wide agreement that further policy-relevant research is needed in this area. Key points identified for the research community included the need to:

  • Work towards a more consistent and robust estimation method for EROI and net energy, that allows different energy sources to be compared at the point of use stage;
  • Communicate not just EROI values, but also trends, set against threshold limits (“minimum” EROI required);
  • Work more closely with economists and the policy community to facilitate greater mutual understanding of the issue on both sides.

The workshop was hosted by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and organised and funded by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) research programme, the Centre for Innovation and Energy Demand (CIED) and the Centre for Industrial Energy, Materials and Products (CIE-MAP) – two of the Research Councils UK’s End Use Energy Demand Centres.


introduction (link)

Tim Foxon, CIED, University of Sussex: Energy and Economic Growth: Learning from past transitions

Michael Kumhof, Bank of England:Energy and Economic Growth: Many Questions, Some Answers June 30, 2017

Gael Giraud, Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and University Paris-1, Chair Energy and Prosperity: Some thoughts on EROI and macroeconomics

Victor Court, EconomiX, Université Paris Nanterre: Energy-Return-On-Investment (EROI):The accessibility of energy and its link with economic growth

Paul Brockway, UK Energy Research Centre and CIE-MAP, University of Leeds: UK fossil fuel futures

Marco Raugei,Oxford Brookes University: EROI & Energy Policy (2) (Key UK renewables: PV, wind, biofuels)

Related paper
Brand-Correa L.I., Brockway P.E., Copeland C.L., Foxon T.J., Owen A., Taylor P.G., (2017)  Developing an Input-Output Based Method to Estimate a National-Level Energy Return on Investment (EROI). Energies 2017, 10(4), 534 Available at: http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/10/4/534/pdf

Read the original post here.

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