At the recent launch of Zero Carbon Britain: Rethinking the Future, we were asked ‘how much would it cost?’ to achieve our scenario. It’s a hard one to answer as we haven’t done an economic analysis of ZCB. It also a hard because an analysis which merely tots up the costs of a scenario like ours and compares it with alternatives just isn’t adequate to explore the economic and social impacts of one scenario versus another, in order that we could fairly choose between them.
Much of the dialogue around the energy system is about meeting climate change targets at ‘lowest cost’. But an adequate economics should also discuss the benefits in terms of job creation, widespread ownership of our energy system, and greater dispersal of profits from the energy system throughout our country. These could all be achieved in a scenario like ZCB.
The debate has to be about more than how much money we spend to ‘keep the lights on’ and move around, because spending money on fossil fuels supplied from abroad by multinational companies is manifestly not the same thing as spending money on renewable energy made, maintained and owned by millions of people across the UK. They will have totally different economic and societal impacts, and these must be discussed as we determine the nature of our future energy system and crucially how it is financed, owned and operated.
We’d like to work with others to try and develop an adequate economic discussion of ZCB and to disperse the language of this discussion into the public debate around our energy system (and our other systems for that matter). The paper ZCB and an adequate economics? can hopefully start the discussion.
This discussion paper was written by Philip James, Energy System Researcher during the research phase leading to the publication of the latest report. Prior to working on ZCB he completed an Engineering Doctorate at the University of Manchester, researching strategies for low and zero carbon buildings.