Energy professionals are a pretty diverse lot: engineers, managers, planners, finance people, lawyers and others. Lots of different perspectives but some remarkably convergent views have emerged from the 2016 Energy Barometer survey of 438 members of the Energy Institute. And the points on which they agree could be seen as some of the most contentious.
On Brexit, an overwhelming majority of contributors foresee negative effects on the UK energy system, especially in relation to securing energy supplies, renewable energy development, climate change and sustainability, and air quality. On the biggest challenges facing the energy sector, lack of continuity in energy policy, closely linked to investment obstacles, came out easily as the number one concern.
Scepticism that politicians’ appetite for ambitious climate targets is matched by their capacity and/or willingness to deliver marks a third area of striking consensus. More than 70% believed the world would warm by more than 2°C, regardless of the even more ambitious Paris agreement. And more than half thought the UK would fall “significantly” short of its own 80% emissions reduction target by 2050. Closer to the present day, there was also scepticism about the UK’s ability to meet its 3rd, 4th and 5th carbon budgets. However, my personal view (and I was one of the randomly selected Barometer participants) is that the UK will easily meet the 3rd carbon budget through Alice in Wonderland net carbon accounting and interactions with the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (should we remain part of it).
A final area of consensus, and one close to the Energy Institute, lies in the perceived shortage of skilled workers across all parts of the energy sector except North Sea oil and gas and fossil fuel electricity generation. Nuclear is seen as having the greatest shortage in skilled workers, both today and in five years’ time.
It is not all consensus of course and, if there were, the value of the Barometer would be diminished. For example, there is a range of views about prospects for gas and electricity prices, with more of a balance between those who thought prices would rise, those who thought prices would fall and those who thought they would stay roughly the same. But there is a tendency for more respondents to foresee electricity rather than gas prices rising as a result of investment needs for infrastructure and low carbon supply.
So what have we learned as an institute from conducting the survey? First, our members are enthusiastic and ready to contribute their expertise to the public debate. Second, that government and other stakeholders are ready to listen. We are launching this year’s report as part of the Energy Systems conference, organised with our partners at Elsevier. The 2016 Energy Barometer project, led by Dr Joanne Wade FEI, Chair of the Energy Advisory Panel, looks like a big success that builds on the 2015 launch of the Barometer. Who know what will happen in the next year (or even on the next 10 days)? But the world will listen if Energy Institute members voice their views again in 2017.