Green Thinkers Newcastle convened for the first meeting of 2016 in a new venue, and with some new members attending. The meeting was chaired by Marek who led an engaging and fascinating discussion exploring some key questions prompted by the text (Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air). The overriding view expressed was that the book opened up a wide range of topics and points for discussion in this vitally important area of future environmental planning. Whilst it was accepted that the analysis and data used in the book had perhaps dated somewhat, this did not detract from the wealth of detail it shone on the opportunities and challenges of developing sustainable energy solutions for the future.
In discussing the book it was particularly appreciated just how complex the issues surrounding sustainable energy are, and the significant point of importance of the need for carefully planned mix of solutions, with no one energy type able to provide all or enough of our needs moving forward. At the same time, it impressed upon the group the degree to which many sustainable energy solutions impact in terms of available land, and competing land uses. The specific challenges of space per head of energy consumption was well illustrated by the exercise the group completed using maps from the book exploring the sheer scale of the sustainable energy footprint on the UK land surface.
A point that raised a good degree of discussion was that whilst the book may have some flaws in areas it perhaps does not cover in detail, or excludes, or where technical progress since it’s publication has moved the debate on, on the whole the significance and importance of developing a detailed plan of action – a task it was felt government should now be addressing – was something that was of value, and touched on what can be done to encourage government to drive policy forward.
Unsurprisingly, the issue of nuclear power came up, not least because the book (perhaps controversially) includes it within the sustainable energy models it explores, and the feeling of the group generally tended towards concern over nuclear as an option we might want to pursue. This was however measured against a clear understanding that there are significant energy security risks (and possible ethical issues) with some elements of sustainable energy provisions from non-UK sources for UK consumption.
The group felt ultimately that the meeting had been a very interesting exploration of some of the key ideas, but that this is such a significant area that perhaps could be explored in more detail at future sessions. Certainly everyone felt that a huge amount of detail had been raised in a very positive and interesting meeting.