The Campaign to Protect Rural England appointed us to explore how to cut emissions from rural areas by improving energy efficiency and using low carbon technologies. We did primary research, based on interviews, in three locations around England – the flatlands of East Anglia, upland areas in Derbyshire, and coastal areas in Somerset. We interviewed householders who had already upgraded their homes with the objective of saving energy and reducing carbon emissions.
We also did modelling, using the model we built for the Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change: the Cambridge Housing Model. This focused on what savings in energy use and carbon emissions are possible from upgrading English homes, and how far these upgrades can take us towards the 80% national reduction target by 2050.
We face some very hard choices about how to meet England’s demand for energy over the next few decades. There is a real risk that our countryside will suffer – not only from new energy generation infrastructure but also from how that energy is transmitted to points of use. Inaction would bring the real risk of runaway climate change, or put an end to any confidence that the lights will stay on long term.
Our report with Anglia Ruskin University presents hard evidence of what can be achieved without sacrificing the countryside. For the hard choices, it also shows graphically how much new forestry we might need, and how much new electricity generation from solar farms and onshore or offshore wind turbines.
Our findings show that even if we pursue an ambitious national upgrade programme to improve existing homes, there will be an energy gap equivalent to 38 million tonnes of CO2 a year by 2050. Filling this gap might require planting forestry over half of England, and 3,500 wind turbines, and 8,100 hectares of photovoltaics.
Project Collaborators: Anglia Ruskin