Brain power of youth being harnessed to shed light on energy crisis

Brain power of youth being harnessed to shed light on energy crisis

Brain power of youth being harnessed to shed light on energy crisis

Media Information - 15 June 2004

Against a global backdrop of depleting fossil fuel reserves, rising oil prices and contentious alternative energy proposals, senior school students in Dumfries and Galloway are being asked to decide how Scotland should respond to the world’s energy crisis. Meeting on Wednesday June 16 in Dumfries for a discussion forum organised by The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), S5 & S6 students will have the opportunity to hear evidence and opinion from experts in the field of energy, to challenge and question them and to air their views.

This event, which is being held at the University of Glasgow, Crichton University Campus, Dumfries 1 will encourage the Students to consider the target set by Scottish Executive Ministers that by 2020, 40% of Scotland’s electricity should come from alternative resources. The students are expected to debate the economics, ethics and environmental considerations of different energy strategies and to come to their own conclusions. A report of the Students’ proposals will be sent by The RSE to decision-making bodies, including the Scottish Parliament, helping the views of the young people to be heard. Students from Dalbeattie High School; Dumfries Academy; Dumfries High School; Kirkcudbright Academy and St Joseph's College and Wallace Hall Academy will be participating.

Media Invitation:

There will be a photo opportunity at 3.30pm at Browne House, The University of Glasgow, Crichton University Campus, Dumfries. Members of the Media are also invited to take an active part in the final discussion from 3.00pm when the students will feedback from workshops and debate findings and opinions. The questions which will be explored during the workshops sessions are listed below.

Dr Harinee Selvadurai, Education Officer for The Royal Society of Edinburgh said:

The purpose of this event, which is part of the RSE’s series of discussion events for senior school pupils held throughout Scotland, is to give the Students access to experts with differing viewpoints and crucially for the Students to reach their own conclusions. The choices we make in responding to the energy crisis will have far reaching social, economic and environmental consequences and so it is essential that young people have a say in the way their world develops. We shall be seeking to draw their conclusions to the attention of key decision and policy makers to contribute to the debate and in finding solutions.


Wednesday 16 June 2004: The University of Glasgow, Crichton University Campus, Dumfries

09.30     Registration

09.55     Introduction and Welcome by Chair, Dr Stuart Monro, Scottish Science Advisory Committee

10.00     Renewable Resources - how the technology works by Dr Graham Ault, Institute for Energy and Environment, University of Strathclyde

10.15     Building a Renewable Future for Scotland by Mr Maf Smith, Scottish Renewables Forum

10.30     Coffee

10.50     Energy Efficiency by Mr Peter Meridew, The Energy Agency

11.10     Who Needs Fossil Fuels and Nuclear? – We Do! by Dr Malcolm Kennedy CBE FREng FRSE, Member of the DTI/Ofgem Distributed Generation Co-ordination Group, Former Chairman PB Power

11.30     Workshops - introduction and familiarisation

12.00     Lunch

12.30     Workshops

14.30     Presentations

15.00     General discussion

15.25     Concluding Remarks

15.30     Close

Speakers’ Biographies & Presentation Summaries:

Dr. Stuart Monro

Scottish Science Advisory Committee, Our Dynamic Earth and British Geological Survey

Dr Stuart Monro is a member of the Scottish Science Advisory Committee which was established in May 2002, to provide independent advice to Scottish Executive

inisters on strategic scientific issues, including science strategy, science policy and science priorities. Dr Monro convenes the working group on Science and Society.

Stuart Monro graduated from the University of Aberdeen with a First Class honours degree (BSc) in 1970. He then joined the British Geological Survey (BGS) where he has worked ever since and now is a Principal Geologist in that organisation. In 1982 he obtained the degree of PhD from the University of Edinburgh. Presently, Dr Monro is Scientific Director of Our Dynamic Earth and a geologist in the British Geological Survey. As the Scientific Director of Dynamic Earth, he focuses his work on developing the story of Dynamic Earth through new and temporary exhibitions, and with delivering the mission of the Dynamic Earth Charitable Trust through interfacing and networking with external bodies who are also concerned with the communication of science. As a mapping geologist, he has been involved in the detailed re-assessment and mapping of various areas of the Midland Valley of Scotland and of the borders area of Scotland in areas of outcrop of rocks of Carboniferous age.

Dr Graham Ault - Renewable Resources – How the technology works

Graham Ault received the electrical and mechanical engineering degree (1st class Hons.) from the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, U.K., in 1993. He received the Ph.D. degree in 2000 also from the University of Strathclyde with a thesis focusing on the impact of small scale generation on electricity networks. He is a Member of both the Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEE) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and is also a Chartered Engineer.

He is currently a Senior Research Fellow in the Institute for Energy and Environment at the University of Strathclyde and his research portfolio spans several aspects of distributed and renewable generation including: active distribution network management, power system analysis, power system planning and power system economics.


There are many renewable technologies available - each at various stages of technological and commercial development. Each of the technologies also has a variety of renewable credentials (e.g. clean, efficient, sustainable, etc.). After hydro (which is already technically mature) wind power is the next most advanced option in terms of technology and cost.

On the Scottish scene, major development of wind energy is under way, which will add to the significant component of hydro generation already in place. Recent planning decisions make the further development of hydropower problematic or even unlikely. Marine technologies (wave and tidal) are a major focus for research, development and demonstration. The Scottish marine energy resource is very large.

The development of solar energy in Scotland is not so promising (other than in specialist applications) because of the high costs and relatively poor resource availability.

In addition to the environmental, economic and technical challenges for the renewable generation technologies themselves, there exist a number of other barriers to their development. The planning process (project financing, local and national planning procedures, environmental compliance requirements, etc.) can sometimes bring renewable project developments to a halt – often for good reason. There are technical limitations in the electricity networks into which the generators supply energy. Overcoming these barriers is often complex and costly. The electricity marketplace provides incentives for renewable generators through government backed schemes, but at the same time presents barriers to renewable generators through the penalties for lack of predictability of power output.

In conclusion, there is a major force to push renewables forward, including research and development activities, government incentive schemes and environmental will of individuals, collective organisations and industry. However, there are serious challenges along the way to a cleaner electrical energy industry based on renewables.

Mr Maf Smith - Building a Renewable Future for Scotland

Maf Smith is the Chief Operating Officer for Scottish Renewables, the Forum for Scotland’s Renewable Energy Industry.

Scottish Renewables has been working since 1996 to support development and provision of a sustainable energy future for Scotland. It works with its Members, Government and regulatory bodies on key issues such as finance, planning and energy distribution. Today Scotland has a framework for growth that is the envy of the rest of the UK: Scottish Renewables is proud to have assisted in the creation of this forward thinking business environment.

Before working at Scottish Renewables, Maf was the Manager of Furness Energy Partnership – a European SAVE agency in Cumbria, England – running a range of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Previous to this he worked as an environmental officer for Barrow Borough Council in Cumbria, and as an environmental researcher. Maf is the co-author of the Earthscan book "Greening the Built Environment". He also trained in law and worked as an electrician. He is still unsure why he turned his back on such lucrative career paths but thinks that renewable energy has an interesting future ahead of it and is playing his part in making it happen.



Scotland has some of the best renewable resources in the world. We have 25% of Europe’s wind resource, 50% of Europe’s wave and tidal resource, as well as substantial levels of solar radiation and biomass. With the challenge of climate change, and the importance of ensuring we have sufficient future supplies to meet our energy needs, renewable energy represents an opportunity for Scotland in meeting its future energy needs from clean, safe and reliable sources, while creating new skilled employment.

Our target

The Scottish Executive has set a target that by 2020 40% of our electricity comes from renewable sources. This is a good start but more could be done. Electricity use represents only 20% of Scotland’s total energy demand. The other 80% is for transport and heating. This means that our 40% renewable electricity target is really only an 8% renewable energy target. There is therefore a need to look more closely at how we can do more to reduce the impact of heating and transport fuels. Biomass and biofuels have an important role to play, and in the longer term, hydrogen - generated from renewables such as wind, wave and tidal - will be important.

Current Progress

Scotland currently generates some 10% of its electricity from renewables – mainly large hydro projects built in the 1950s and 1960s in rural Scotland. These projects are still operating today. Current activity is focused on wind power. There are a substantial number of wind energy projects now in the Scottish planning system, and wind could provide up to 20% of our electricity needs. This still leaves us 10% short of our 40% target. Much is riding on the emergence of a wave and tidal sector. A number of Scottish and international companies are developing prototype devices and some machines are now being tested in Scottish waters. However, this industry still has a long way to go to prove itself, and the first generation of wave and tidal projects will receive substantial Government help. This support should be seen as an investment in building a new industry in Scotland and helping solve how to capture the energy in our seas cost effectively.

It’s important to realise that the modern wind turbine is a Glaswegian invention. Scottish companies – such as Howden’s of Glasgow – were at the forefront of work in the 1970s to solve the problem of generating electricity from wind. However, the UK market was not supported. In contrast, Denmark put in place support for wind energy, with the net result that every one in wind turbines sold throughout the world is Danish. Initial investment by their government has been repaid through the creation of a major industry in Denmark. We need to learn our lessons from this and make sure that we don’t pass up a similar opportunity in wave and tidal.

Making Choices

The other key thing to realise is that there is no magic bullet in energy policy. There are trade offs to be made and every technology has its strengths and weaknesses. The good news is that renewable energy has many strengths, if we develop a balanced mix of technologies. We should not just rely on wind and hydro. However, choices do need to be made. Decisions here often come in the planning process, and controversy about wind energy proposals in Scotland shows that it is not easy to change the way we generate energy in Scotland. In conclusion, difficult decisions need to be made about how to balance competing environmental objectives, while developing a mix of technologies to meet all our energy needs and provide valuable employment. Renewables can do this.

Mr Peter Meridew - Energy Efficiency

Currently, Mr Meridew is an Energy Support Officer with The Energy Agency. This organisation is an independent charity which receives funding from The Energy Saving Trust and Councils in south-west Scotland. As such he provides energy lessons to schools throughout Dumfries & Galloway, which cover conventional energy production, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

He has over 30 years experience in many aspects of energy use within the built environment both here in the UK, in Canada and the USA.

He was a university lecturer at Ryerson in Toronto for many years and developed a low energy housing design courses for the 4th year of the architectural degree programme. He has been extensively involved with the Canadian R2000 low-energy housing programme and the Advanced Home programme, acting as design consultant, training instructor, energy auditor and on-site inspector.

His energy related experience also encompasses commercial and industrial projects, including an energy conservation refit programme for the Canadian Navy Dockyard in Halifax, Nova Scotia.


With current predictions in growth patterns, and diminishing traditional energy sources, it seems inevitable that our future energy demands may very well exceed the amount that will be available whether it comes from conventional sources or from the more recent and still developing, renewable technologies.

However, decreasing our future personal energy consumption does not necessarily imply a decrease in our future standard of living, but in order for this not to occur, it will be extremely important to implement actions that will reduce the amount of energy being consumed by inefficient and wasteful practices. These practices are part of every aspect of our lives and are perpetrated not through any thought of malevolence but through lack of consideration for the alternatives that already exist.

Today’s talk on energy efficiency will review some examples of energy wastefulness, which are parts of our daily surroundings. This will hopefully encourage the participants at this event to explore for themselves other similarly wasteful situations that can be rectified if there is sufficient personal and political will for it to be implemented.

It is not unreasonable to state that future houses will consume less than a ¼ of the energy of those constructed in 1950 and ½ that of a house built as recently as 1990. But what is to be done about Scotland’s older housing which represents a majority of the total housing stock?

Dr Malcolm Kennedy CBE, FREng, FRSE - Who Needs Fossil Fuels and Nuclear? – We Do

Dr Malcolm Kennedy was born on Tyneside and after, what he describes as, modest achievements at Primary and Secondary education levels he was apprenticed during the 1950s and took a degree in Electrical Engineering at King’s College in the University of Durham in 1961, followed by a PhD from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1964.

Dr Kennedy then joined Merz and McLellan, the Newcastle-based consulting engineering firm founded in 1899 specialising in the design and realisation of power stations, high voltage transmission and utilisation of electricity, and in 1991 he became Chairman and Managing Director. In January 1995 Merz and McLellan merged with the American consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc. and Dr Kennedy became Executive Chairman of Merz and McLellan Limited and, in 1999, Chairman of PB Power Ltd which includes the power businesses of Merz and McLellan and Kennedy & Donkin. He retired as Chairman at the end of 2002, and continues to work for PB Power as a consultant on certain projects.

In 1985 he became a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and in 2002 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He was President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) in 1999-2000.

In 2002 he was appointed a Member of the DTI/Ofgem Distributed Generation Coordination Group, set up to consider how to incorporate renewable generation into the electricity system. In 2003 he became a Non-Executive Director of the New and Renewable Energy Centre (Government-financed not-for-profit company established in 2003 to promote, develop and test ideas and equipment in the renewable energy field). Dr Kennedy currently advises the Office of Electricity Regulation (OFFER).


Even allowing for electricity coming from hydro-electric resources in the UK and a slightly smaller but growing proportion from ‘renewable’ sources, mainly wind, over 95% of Britain’s electricity derives from gas, coal and nuclear. By 2010 the proportion of electricity supply by ‘renewables’ should reach 10% according to Government plans. The presentation will show however, that as an industrialised nation with the world’s fourth biggest economy, we will be just as dependent on nuclear and fossil fuel generation well into the next decade as we are today.

Cost of electricity production is crucial if industry is to survive and the poor are to be protected. Even more importantly, we also need to provide security of supply through a diversified portfolio of generation technologies.

The politics and exciting new technologies of ‘renewable’ electricity generation have an increasing role in improving our environment but the presenter will assert that gas and coal, which are becoming increasingly "clean", along with nuclear which is entirely free from greenhouse gas production must provide the mainstay of our electricity generation into the foreseeable future.

Workshop Questions - Students will address the following questions in the course of the day:

Group 1

* Based on the various characteristics of renewable technologies, which of them should we encourage more development of?

* How much extra will consumers be willing to pay to support the development of renewable energy? Will a lack of willingness to pay for renewables ultimately constrain their development?

* What can be done to overcome the barriers presented by the planning process, the electricity networks and the electricity markets?

Group 2

* One criticism of developing renewables is that more should first be done to increase energy efficiency in society. Are energy efficiency and development of renewables complimentary or conflicting?

* How do we make sure that we have a balanced mix of renewables to meet the Scottish Executive’s target of 40%of electricity from renewables by 2020?

* Given that most of Scotland’s coal and nuclear stations will be closed by 2020, what should we do to provide other 60%?

Group 3

* Can it ever be in the best interests of large energy supply companies to promote and subsidise energy conservation programmes?

* How can sectors of our community (other than the elderly, those who receive benefits and for whom there are already free energy saving schemes) be encouraged to implement energy conservation activities in their own homes?

Group 4

* If Britain has vast coal resources, why do we import most of the coal we need and why is the amount of electricity from coal shrinking?

* Can we really do without nuclear in the long term future?

* Can there be significant technological advances in conventional generation that will improve their relative costs and environmental friendliness?

Group 5

* How should we reduce the climate change impact of heating and transport? Can renewables help here?

* If LNG (liquefied natural gas) is such a good alternative fuel for cars, why are fuel conversion programmes not receiving larger subsidies from government or oil supply companies?

* If gas is the cheapest form of energy for electricity production what about its security of supply in the future?

Participating Schools

· Dalbeattie High School, Dalbeattie, Dumfries and Galloway

· Dumfries Academy, Dumfries

· Dumfries High School, Dumfries

· Kirkcudbright Academy, Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway

· St Joseph's College, Dumfries

· Wallace Hall Academy, Thornhill, Dumfries and Galloway

Notes for News & Features Editors & Pictures Desks:

1 The Crichton University Campus in Dumfries

The Crichton University Campus in Dumfries is Scotland's first multi-institutional campus, hosting the University of Glasgow, the University of Paisley, Bell College and Dumfries and Galloway College. Located within a historic and award-winning 85 acre estate of parkland and gardens, the campus has the reputation of being one of the most beautiful in the country.

2. The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE)

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) is Scotland’s National Academy of Science & Letters. A wholly independent, non party-political body with charitable status, the RSE is a knowledge resource for the people of Scotland. Organising conferences and lectures both for the specialist and for the general public, the RSE is a forum for informed debate on issues of national and international importance. The Society draws upon the expertise of its multidisciplinary fellowship of approximately 1300 peer-elected men and women of international standing, to provide independent, expert advice to key decision making bodies, including Government and Parliament. Strengthening links between academia and industry and boosting wealth-generation at home, the Society’s Research Awards programme annually awards well over one and a half million pounds to exceptionally talented young academics and potential entrepreneurs. Today, operating a successful programme of inspiring lectures and hands-on workshops for primary and secondary school pupils, the RSE is also active in classrooms from the Borders to the Northern Isles. The multidisciplinary membership of the RSE makes it unique amongst learned Societies in Great Britain. Its peer-elected fellowship encompasses excellence in the Sciences, Arts, Humanities, the Professions, Industry and Commerce. Born out of the intellectual ferment of the Scottish Enlightenment, the RSE was founded in 1783 by Royal charter for the "advancement of learning and useful knowledge". A progressive Scottish Society, working as part of the UK and within a global context, the Royal Society of Edinburgh is committed to the future of Scotland’s social, economic and cultural well-being. The RSE is Scottish Charity No. SC000470 Further information about the RSE can be found on its website at:


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