UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources


Professor Jim Watson lecture: Can we have a low carbon energy system and keep the lights on?

21 June 2018, 5:30 pm–8:00 pm

light bulb city

UCL ISR are excited to welcome Professor Jim Watson to UCL with a public lecture exploring how energy security is changing as the UK energy system decarbonises.

Event Information

Open to





UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources


Gustave Tuck lecture theatre, The Wilkins Building, Gower Street

Book now


Ensuring energy security is a central goal of energy policy in most countries. The UK is no exception. Throughout the increasingly rapid changes in the energy sector, energy security has remained high on the policy agenda. Whilst the government is right to argue that there are likely to be energy security benefits from the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy, this does not necessarily mean that such concerns will disappear.

This lecture will explore how energy security is changing as the UK energy system decarbonises. It will start by busting some myths. The most important is that ‘home grown’ energy resources are automatically more secure than energy imports. Whilst this may be the case in some circumstances, the reality is much more nuanced. International markets and supply chains have contributed in positive ways to UK energy security. Furthermore, some of the most important risks to security have come from technical failures or industrial disputes within the UK.

The lecture will then discuss a recent assessment of future energy security by the UK Energy Research Centre. This uses a ‘dashboard’ of energy security indicators to assess the security of the energy system in 2030 and 2050. These indicators range from the risk of public opposition to the risk that electricity and gas supply may not balance on a real-time basis – especially during times of peak demand. Based on this analysis, the lecture will conclude with some policy implications, particularly for the implementation of the government’s Clean Growth Strategy.

About the Speaker

Professor Jim Watson is Director of the UK Energy Research Centre. In June 2018, he will join the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources as Professor of Energy Policy. He previously spent 21 years at SPRU, University of Sussex, including as Director of the Sussex Energy Group from late 2008 to early 2013. He has 20 years’ research experience on climate change, energy and innovation policy. His recent outputs include co-edited books: New Challenges in Energy Security: The UK in a multipolar world (Palgrave, 2013; with Catherine Mitchell) and Global Energy: Issues, Potentials and Policy Implications (Oxford University Press, 2015; with Paul Ekins and Mike Bradshaw).

Prof Watson frequently advises UK government departments and other organisations, and has been a Specialist Adviser to three UK Parliamentary committees. He also has extensive international experience, including over ten years working on energy scenarios and energy innovation policies in China and India. In 2008, he was a Visiting Scholar at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He is a judge for the Queens Awards, a member of the UK government’s fossil fuel price assumptions advisory panel and a member of the strategic advisory group for the Global Challenges Research Fund.