Following hot on the heels of the Government’s white paper on energy published two days previously, the seminar, ‘The impact of new materials to reduce energy costs,’ held at 1CHT on 26 February produced a healthy debate. Jointly organised by the institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining and the Institute of Energy, Professor Colin Humphreys from Cambridge University and Chairman of the institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining summed up the seminar's aim of highlighting potential energy savings that could be implemented now using existing technology.
Responding to the Government’s ambitious target of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 60% by 2050, Professor Humphreys said, ‘This reduction in CO2 emissions will be impossible unless we use new materials to achieve it.’
Wind power is often lauded as the answer to green energy production, but Professor Humphreys challenged that wind power is not meeting the required power output, and problems with reliability and maintenance of offshore wind farms have yet to be resolved. Back-up power sources are also required to work alongside wind power, which was argued to be a misplaced investment at this rime.
One example of a material that could be exploited for energy reduction is gallium nitride for use in light emitting diodes (LEDs). Used in traffic lights, these LEDs consume a fraction of the power used by conventional bulbs. Cities such as Singapore and Denver have already adopted this technology, and Denver has seen its electricity bill for traffic lights fall by 92% per year, with a CO2 reduction equivalent to removing more than 1,100 US cars from the road, or planting a 2,000 acre forest.
Professor Harry Bhadeshia from Cambridge University presented new materials solutions to enhance the operating efficiency stations. By using new high temperature materials, the efficiency of conventional power stations can be increased, leading to a C02 emission reduction of up to 16%.
Gordon MacKerron, NERA Associate Director, presented ‘UK energy policy - the choices ahead’. ‘The energy system is the only delivery vehicle for policy if climate change matters,’ he said. He went onto suggest that a rise in consumer energy prices, tackling fuel poverty and more strategic carbon taxes should be high on the agenda.
Comments from the floor included the opinion that more effort into nuclear power, wave and tidal power research is needed.