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Sustainable Energy Association Pathways

We have mapped out a number of Pathways all of which:

  1. Promote demand side activity in the form of
    1. Reducing energy waste
    2. Building-level technologies - heat pumps, solar thermal; photovoltaic; gas boilers phasing into gas transition technologies such as micro CHP and small scale wind. In the case of small scale wind a low entry is always used to give this technology a chance to develop: but the achievement of policy objectives is not dependant on this; and
  2. Rely on less large scale generation to meet our 2050 energy needs.
  3. Achieve the UK’s 80% CO2 reduction target by 2050.
  4. Enhance energy security, principally by a lower reliance on imported energy than the other scenarios published by DECC
  5. Save UK PLC very large sums of money: between £1 billion p.a. and £12 billion p.a. – amounting to total savings in the 35 years up to 2050 (assuming commencement in 2015) of between £31 billion and £416.6 billion (i.e. nearly half a trillion pounds).
  6. Where they do (and not all do) rely on some imported bio-energy, ensure that the amount required is no more than half of the UK’s ‘fair share’ of world bio-crops as worked out by the International Energy Agency.
  7. Avoid the relatively high cost of mass electrification of transport.

The individual Pathways

Our main pathway (Pathway e1c…121) on the drop down menu produces a saving of £186 per person (N.B. per person NOT per household) per year. Based on the UK population of 64 million people this will result in an annual saving to UK PLC of over £11.9 billion. Over 35 years this would mean a total (undiscounted) saving of over £416.6 billion (nearly £½ trillion).

The Pathway uses the same assumption as the Government for average temperature of homes – namely a drop of 1.5 degrees on current levels. It is important to be clear that this does NOT mean colder homes – it is achieved by smarter heating controls ensuring that appropriate heating levels are maintained (for example occupied rooms being heated to 21 deg but, importantly, unoccupied rooms maintaining a lower temperature). It does not rely on behavioural change.

The Pathway envisages some imports of bio crops but subject to the caveat mentioned above. In 2050 there will be no coal imports and 64TwH of gas imports; but total imports will be 47% - less than the MARKAL government option.

By making small changes to this Pathway even more money could be saved and imports lowered even more. For instance

  1. By changing shipping from level 3 to 4 (which is the maximum technical potential at the current time – i.e. this does not mean that people have refrain from going on holiday) the savings will be increased to £191 per person and so to £12.2 billion p.a. and £427.8 billion over 35 years. Oil imports would drop to 281 TWh p.a. and total imports to 46%. Shipping is not included in the UKs CO2 target and we do not know therefore whether level 4 is feasible from a policy (as distinct from a technical) point of view: we mention this possibility for further discussion rather than highlight it.
  2. By changing import of bio crops from 2 to 1 (i.e. the UK imports no bio crops) the savings increase to £212 per person p.a. amounting to a total annual saving of over £13.5 billion and a saving over 35 years of (474.9 billion or nearly £½ trillion!). However this results in a slight shortfall in CO2 reduction as it only achieves 79% by 2050 rather than the 80% required by the Climate Change Act. However, it is important to observe that much of the background data used to populate the calculator’s underlying cost assumptions for different technologies was entered into the calculator two years ago now. Since then there have been developments in technology resulting in lower costs and in some cases higher performance (see below for further comments this point), so we feel that this Pathways is worth inclusion for future consideration.


  1. Our first alternative pathway (Pathway e1d…121) drops average temperature of homes to level 3 – a decrease of 0.5 degrees on current levels but again produced by smart heating technology and not forced behavioural change. Savings are £138 per person totalling just over £8.8 billion p.a. and a cumulative £309 billion over 35 years.
  2. Our second alternative pathway (Pathway d1b…131) has no import of bio crops and overall Imports are very low indeed: zero coal and low oil and their overall total being 606 TWh or 39%. Savings to UK PLC are less - £76 per person (£4.8 billion per year)or £170.2 billion cumulatively over 35 years.
  3. Our third alternative pathway (Pathway f1b…331) differs from the rest in that it reduces the land used for bio crops to level 2. Savings are £48 per person which amounts to just over £3 billion p.a. and £107.5 billion over 35 years.
  4. Our fourth and final alternative pathway (Pathway d1d…111) is very different in that it is the only one submitted for discussion that results in new generation gas heating such as Micro CHP being used in the domestic sector (the others all have it in the commercial sector). Imports are higher, especially of gas (although still less than the government’s maximum in its pathways) and saving are much lower – down to £14 per person or just over £0.89 billion p.a. totalling £31.3 billion over 35 years.

Comment and conclusions

Clearly there are choices and balances to be made between maximum savings, minimum imports and the various different entries discussed. Small changes in the entries can result in large changes in the outcomes. However, one thing is common to all these scenarios whichever maybe preferred – they all deliver energy security (and their low imports make this crucial objective more certain to be achieved) and 80% CO2 reduction with less reliance on large scale generation and more reliance on building-level energy production and other reductions in waste through energy efficiency and smarter heating control– at a significantly lower cost to the country overall than any of the other Pathways on this website.

In addition we believe that the true savings will be even greater than those stated above for 3 reasons:

  1. The cost of some technologies has reduced and their performance improved since this information was put on the Government website. In particular we draw attention to the reduced costs of photovoltaics and micro CHP, and the improvements in heat pump seasonal performance factors as evidenced by the latest report from the Energy Saving Trust’s field trial.
  2. There are also technologies not included in the assessment on the calculator such as passive flue gas heat recovery, small scale biomass, gas heat pumps and hybrid technologies (gas boiler combined with electric heat pump) that are cost effective and so an help achieve CO2 reductions more cheaply.
  3. Current technologies are becoming more efficient and thus leading to greater CO2 savings and greater energy outputs.

We are happy to discuss these pathways. Please contact Ron Bailey

The Sustainable Energy Association

The Sustainable Energy Association are a member based industry body offering innovative policy solutions that link up building-level technologies and the wider energy system to achieve a low carbon, secure energy future for the UK, benefits for UK consumers, and commercial growth for businesses working in the sector.

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