The exhibition was a little bigger than the Solar Pavilion at Big Green Week, but had a lot of familiar faces including CSE, Easton Energy Group, BEN, BCC and the bicycle smoothy maker, as well as wave and tidal power companies, and, of course, DECC. It was surprisingly well-attended for a Thursday daytime, and we were busy talking to people most of the time.
The main event was the discussion in the evening, with a full house of 300 attendees and a distinguished panel. Here's how it was advertised:
How we make and use energy is one of the most urgent issues facing Bristol and the UK.
Hosted by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and Bristol City Council, a high-profile panel will discuss how we decarbonise the energy system and keep the lights on.
- Climate Change author and campaigner Mark Lynas and David MacKay, DECC's Chief Scientific Advisor
- Kevin McCloud, designer, writer and TV presenter
- George Ferguson, Bristol Mayor
- Peter Capener, Bath Community Energy
- Beatrice Orchard, Federation of Master Builders
What was particularly interesting was the options that were not allowed, due in part to political compromises between government departments. For example, it was only possible to select between large or very large increases in the amount of international air travel - David apologised that the Department of Transport wouldn't allow scenarios in which it goes down! Also different parameters were often grouped together when the audience clearly wanted to consider them separately. Nuclear power was a contentious issue, as ever, with the audience split between those who say "no thanks" and those who presumably see it as the way to achieve decarbonisation without very radical lifestyle changes. This led to a compromise of 'some' nuclear as the chosen option, which probably pleased nobody.
The 2050 calculator is good insofar as it exposes some of the complexities of the situation and allows people to explore the consequences of different policies. However a lot of implicit assumptions are built into it in a way that inhibits consideration of more radical alternatives. Perhaps the Bristol renewable energy community should get together to deconstruct the model and make our own submission to DECC?