What is it about?

This is my first editorial since being appointed as the Honorary Editor and Chair of the Editorial Panel of the journal. It is a challenging time for the energy sector in the UK and internationally. The most recent (2013) scientific assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) asserts that it is ‘extremely likely’ that humans are the dominant influence on the observed global warming since the mid-20th Century. The journal encourages contributions that address energy production, storage and use in the context of climate change, as well as having regard to the other key elements of policy trilemma: energy affordability, price competitiveness, and security of supply. Electricity generation has historically been based around the concept of large, centralised (thermal) power stations: based on fossil fuel combustors and, more recently, nuclear reactors. This centralised model has delivered economies of scale and reliability, but it exhibits significant drawbacks. A move towards a more decentralised or ‘distributed’ energy systems that utilises renewable energy technologies is consequently desirable. The preferred route to a decarbonised power generation system is likely to be some mix of renewables [e.g., bioenergy, onshore and offshore wind power, solar PV arrays and solar thermal systems], nuclear power and fossil-fuelled power plants with CCS. Methods will consequently be required to evaluate such options that include technology assessment, systems analysis, and the optimization of energy processes, along with the appraisal of energy policy instruments and strategies that may incorporate energy and environmental regulation. This will necessitate innovations and research, development and demonstration (RD&D) in the areas of energy systems, processes, and systems integration. Such systems would embrace power generation, the processing and transmission of energy carriers, energy storage systems, and energy end-use. Energy systems integration (ESI) is also needed to ensure that individual energy systems work efficiently with one another. It brings together power generation, the processing, storage and transmission of energy carriers, and their end-use.

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Why is it important?

The 2015 Paris Agreement following the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in that city aims to keep temperatures “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”. The 2°C figure is broadly consistent with the 2050 present UK CO2 emissions target. However, bottom-up pledges received by countries prior to the Paris Conference {the so-called ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ (INDCs)} for national GHG mitigation efforts are expected by analysts of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to result in a warming of around 2.7oC. So the world still faces a significant test of reducing GHG emissions further in order to bring global warming into line with the aspirations in the Paris Agreement. Indeed, the IPCC in their recent ‘special report’ on the implications of keeping temperatures down to 1.5°C argued that humanity has just 12 years to respond to the climate change challenge (i.e., by about 2030 rather than 2050 presently incorporated in international agreements), if it wishes to keep global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Thus, it needs to instigate appropriate actions in the very near future.

Perspectives

The present issue reflects both energy supply-side, storage and demand-side contributions. The first paper by Madhavi and Nuttall (2019) provides a comprehensive survey of the challenges that face global coal usage out to 2030. This piece builds on the earlier findings of international bodies like the International Energy Agency (IEA, 2017), whose 2022 forecast suggests that coal’s share of the world energy mix will remain at about 26% on this timescale. Madhavi and Nuttall (2019) observe that a variety of factors will impact on coal use going forward: the planned ‘phase-out’ of coal in European countries (such as Denmark, France and the UK), changes of fossil fuel policy in China, alterations in import-dependency within India, and the drop in US coal demand. The second article in this issue is related to the requirements of small hydropower plants: a renewable energy technology. Mohammadi et al. (2019) have studied the optimal location of the associated water supply pipelines. Pressure reducing valves (PRV) are often used in such pipelines to prevent the downstream hydraulic energy from exceeding a set value. But the excess head could be exploited to generate hydropower by using turbine and/or pump as turbine (PAT) devices. Finally, the last paper in this issue deals with the development of a phase-change material (PCM) for heat storage in gypsum-based building materials (Khamooshi and Kani, 2019). Expanded vermiculite was used as a base for a coconut oil (CtO)–vermiculite composite PCM. A maximum mass ratio of CtO retained in the vermiculate of 27% yielded the best particle-size distribution. Consequently, a thermal energy store (TES) utilising PCMs was found to exhibit high storage density at constant temperature during phase change, and to reduce energy usage in buildings.

Professor Emeritus Geoffrey P Hammond
University of Bath

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This page is a summary of: Editorial, Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Energy, May 2019, ICE Publishing, DOI: 10.1680/jener.2019.172.2.43.
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