Monday, May 19, 2008

Becoming a low Carbon Society

Another slightly belated blog - but it's an important one. This time I have been to the All Party Parliamentary working Group on Peak Oil and Gas (appgopo for short - an unusual acronym for sure) meeting on Becoming a Low Carbon Society, with Rob Hopkins speaking on Transition Initiatives, Simon Snowden from Liverpool University on Oil Vulnerability Auditing and Shaun Chamberlin on Tradeable Energy Quotas. Very usefully, you can view all three powerpoints and listen to the sessions online at the appgopo website. They are all worth listening to.

I'm wanting to write about TEQ's - Tradeable Energy Quotas (also known as Personal Carbon Allowances). I've written about them before, and here they are again, because like a lot of successful concepts, in essence it is simplicity itself.

TEQ's are like the toy money we played with when I was a child; there were three of us, and each was given the same allocation. We could spend it as we liked in our pretend market but with certain limitations (no sweets!). Once it was spent it was gone, but if we liked we could trade it in between each other in return for real money. How much it cost to buy in more depended on the generosity of my sister, or the meanness of my brother. An early lesson in the volatility of market conditions.

So, with TEQ's you receive your allocation to spend on energy. The allocation is preset annually, reducing each year in accordance with the requirement to reduce our carbon emissions. When you buy energy, such as petrol for your car or electricity for your household, units corresponding to the amount of energy you have bought are deducted from your TEQs account, in addition to your money payment.

Are you 'energy lean", cycle everywhere and have some whizzy microgeneration at home to cut your energy bills, and so do not use up your allocation? Then you can make some (real) money out of this. Just trade in your TEQ's and sell them to the more energy profligate. Need more than your allocation? You can buy from those who are selling their surplus.

It's a great system. It will reduce our use of fossil fuel; promote understanding of the true cost of our use of fossil fuel and it's creation of CO2 emissions;encourage behavioural change and use of clean energy alternatives. It is an equitable system (everyone treated the same); it guarantees national carbon reduction commitments in line with international targets (an independent committee would set the level allowable for the market each year in accordance with reduction national targets), it allows for a phased energy descent.

TEQs provides an effective and fair response to both climate change and resource depletion and enables a nation to ensure fair access to energy for all. It supplies the incentive for citizens, organisations and Government to work now on achieving the necessary rapid transformation in the way we use fuel into the future, and it provides time to plan ahead. It empowers localities and individuals to be able to make a tangible difference. It is fair, simple and practical, and it gets results by uniting the nation in a common purpose.

So why is this not being implemented? Last week DEFRA undertook a pre-feasibility study on the implementation of TEQ's and confirmed that there were no technical barriers to it's implementation. But that's as far as it got. No movement there - for the time being. But with escalating energy prices ( Goldman Sachs recent report claims oil price could increase to $200 per Barrel within 6 months, others believe it shan't stop there), the increased awarenesss that oil companies are consolidating (have you noticed how fast petrol stations are rapidly disappearing?), and the energy crisis becoming more painful by the day, our government might wake up soon. Indeed, BERR have just welcomed an investigatory report into future oil availablity - but this will take a year before completion. Regardless of exactly how much more (or more to the point - how little remains - even Bush thinks we're running out) exists, we know we need to wean ourselves off our oil dependency as soon as possible.

TEQ's are a simple system, one that would not take much to implement, and I'll wager will be with us sooner rather than later. The Draft Climate Change Bill allows for it's implementation without additional primary legislation, which is good news. A case of watch this space.


Shaun Chamberlin said...

Glad to hear TEQs strikes a chord with you Polly. Thanks for your positive response.

Just one point of clarification - the DEFRA pre-feasibility study you mention actually came out in the last couple of weeks, not last year, so outraged letters to your readers' MPs are still most appropriate. Our response can be found here.

The Lazy Environmentalist said...

Shaun, you are quite right - have amended text accordingly. Makes it even more bizarre that they view this as an idea ahead of it's time. Surely this is an idea of it's time, and that time has now come?
Or maybe a pre-feasibility report into Peak Oil might change this, providing it doesn't take too long...