UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources


UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources Director gives evidence to Parliament on Net Zero

13 March 2024

Jim Watson appears before the Energy Security and Net Zero House of Commons Select Committee urging greater action on energy transition, sustainability and decarbonisation

UK Parliament building

On the morning of Wednesday 6th March, The Energy Security and Net Zero House of Commons Select Committee were hearing evidence from a panel of expert witnesses from UKERC, Greenpeace UK, the Adam Smith Institute and the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources.  The committee were conducting an inquiry entitled, ‘Keeping the power on: our future energy technology mix’.

The first question posed by MPs was whether the current government approach strikes the right balance between emerging technologies, and long-term supply. Prof Watson used his appearance to urge greater action to safeguard energy supply in line with sustainability and the move to Net Zero. Prof Watson opened his evidence by saying that while things are going in the right direction and progress has been made, there is too much focus on the energy supply side and on longer term options such as nuclear. He suggested that we need to accelerate deployment of technologies which are going to deliver now, such as onshore and offshore wind, and solar. Adding some thoughts on the demand side, he noted:

I think government is not doing anywhere near enough on the energy efficiency agenda…I really think if you’re going to have a strategy for the future of the electricity or energy as a whole, energy demand has to be at the centre of it, and it has to be the first thing you address.

The committee moved on to discussion on how much energy could feasibly be saved through demand reduction, noting that the science, including Evidence from the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions, shows that UK final energy use could be reduced by up to 50% by 2050, whilst improving energy security, enhancing quality of life and reducing the risks and costs associated with carbon dioxide removal.

The session also covered low carbon heating, with Prof Watson saying that the government needs to urgently make a decision on hydrogen vs electric heating, and work to upgrade our housing stock. In line with independent analysis on this issue (for instance, as reported here by Carbon Brief), Jim recommended that, ‘The government ought to say electric heating is the lead option now.’

Prof Watson closed his evidence by highlighting some key areas of energy security which may have been missed by the government: securing the future of the gas system during declining usage, cyber security of an electrified energy system, and critical minerals supply. This built on a briefing on Energy Security which Prof Watson recently authored, with recommendations for the government to improve its policies in 5 key areas. 



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