Friday, March 18, 2016

Taking the Long View

This episode was published as a podcast on Friday 18th March at

This week, of course, is dominated by the budget, and coming on a Wednesday it telescopes my deadlines. Not helped by the fact that I’m on jury service this week and the judge won’t let me take my laptop into court. Who needs a jury anyway, when we now have the thinking power of Google’s Deep Mind? Deep thinking has been going on at the National Infrastructure Commission, thinking about tunnels under the Pennines and more tunnels under London, among other things. I bring you sounds of the past, and a very little about Hinckley C and EDF because I think we’ve all had enough of that. And do you remember COP21? Americans are claiming that President Obama had no constitutional right to enter into the Paris agreement.

Hello, yes, this is Anthony Day and here is the latest edition of the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday 18th March. Let me take a moment to remind you about the Sustainable Best Practice Exchange coming up on the 14th April. Go to and book now before you go away on your Easter Holidays and before the tickets run out. If you can’t make it, or even if you can, you might be interested in the report of the Sustainable Best Practice Survey published at a very reasonable £25. But just for you, if you go to the front page of today you can download a copy absolutely free.

The National Infrastructure Commission 

was announced by George Osborne in October’s Autumn Statement and has already published three reports: Smart Power, Transport for a World City (that’s the one about more tunnels under London) and High Speed North. 

The National Infrastructure Commission is headed by Lord Adonis and when he was a government minister he was highly respected for mastering his brief. High hopes, therefore, for his performance in this role.

Smart Power

Here’s what it says in the website:
The National Infrastructure Commission was asked to consider how the UK can better balance supply and demand, aiming towards an electricity market where prices are reflective of costs to the overall system.
The Commission’s central finding is that smart power – principally built around three innovations, interconnection, storage, and demand flexibility – could save consumers up to £8 billion a year by 2030, help the UK meet its 2050 carbon targets, and secure the UK’s energy supply for generations.
The report ‘Smart power’ makes practical recommendations to this end - not new subsidies or substantial public spending - but towards the creation of a level playing field and a better managed network.

This is a refreshing approach. Up till now the energy debate seems to have been mainly about supply and very little about  demand. It will be interesting to see how this is developed into government policy, and in particular how demand can be controlled at the consumer level. It will be interesting to see as well if the government will implement its commission’s recommendations.

The Northern Powerhouse is one of George Osborne’s pet projects and the Commission’s High Speed North report was given plenty of publicity in advance of the budget. 

On this issue the website says:

Our central finding is that the North needs immediate and very significant investment for action now and a plan for longer term transformation to reduce journey times, increase capacity and improve reliability.
On rail, this means kick-starting HS3, integrating it with HS2 and planning for the redevelopment of the North’s gateway stations.
On roads, investment should be brought forwards for an early boost in capacity on the M62, the North’s most important east-west link, alongside funding to identify and assess proposals for tackling a range of other strategic challenges.

They say that the development of the HS3 should begin between Manchester and Leeds, the two largest economies of the North.
Phase one should reduce journey times from 49 to 40 minutes and increase capacity by 2022.
Phase two could cut times to just 30 minutes. An integrated plan covering both phases should be drawn up before the end of 2017.

These are very encouraging deadlines, promising some service improvements as soon as 2022. In the context of major capital projects that’s very rapid, but we’re only talking about cutting journey times from 49 minutes to 40. The phase 2 target is to cut the journey time to 30 minutes, about as long as it currently takes to cover the same distance between London and Reading, but there is no date set for that. Of course, these improvements have been promised before, just before the last election, for example. They have also been deferred. Just after the last election.
So far Osborne’s budget has promised £300m to make sure that the plans can be completed by the 2017 deadline. £80m was also made available for planning the North-South Crossrail 2 from Hertfordshire to Surrey - the subject of the commission’s third report. The actual cost of constructing Crossrail 2 is estimated at around £30 billion but no figures for the cost of HS3 have been suggested. The key question is where the money will come from. While it might be irresponsible to borrow to cover current expenditure, with the lowest interest rates for some 80 years this surely is the time for government to borrow to invest in infrastructure for long term benefit. Mr Osborne’s policy is not to do this: a missed opportunity that I think we and future generations will come to regret.

Subsidies for Oil?

The Chancellor has been criticised for going against last year’s Paris agreement on climate change by introducing further subsidies for the oil industry. For the sixth year in a row he has avoided increasing fuel duty. Petrol is currently the same price as it was 10 years ago, and significantly cheaper in real terms. He also said he would support the oil and gas industry by permanently zero-rating Petroleum Revenue Tax, reducing the Supplementary Charge from 20% to 10%.

Petroleum Revenue Tax (PRT) is a tax on the profits from oil and gas production in the UK or on the UK continental shelf. Up until 31st December the rate was
50%, falling to 35% from 1 January 2016. Following the budget PRT is effectively abolished as it will be set at 0%, backdated to 1st January.

The supplementary charge is an additional charge, and now the only charge, on an oil company’s profits from production. This is cut from 20% to 10%

Talking about a sugar tax, the chancellor said,

“I am not prepared to look back at my time here in this Parliament, doing this job and say to my children’s generation:
“I’m sorry. We knew there was a problem with sugary drinks. We knew it caused disease. But we ducked the difficult decisions and we did nothing.”

In future years will he be saying to his children’s generation, “I’m sorry. We knew there was a problem with fossil fuels. We knew they caused air pollution and respiratory diseases, global warming and climate change. But we ducked the difficult decisions and we did nothing.”?

This is Anthony Day with the Sustainable Futures Report. Don’t forget your complimentary report on the Sustainable Best Practice Survey. Just follow the link on the home page to download. Do it now. This free offer cannot last for ever. 
Still to come: why artificial intelligence is all go, reactions to COP21 and those sounds from the past.

Google's Deep Mind beats Go world champion 

Go is an ancient Chinese board game which has been proved to have more possible moves than there are atoms in the universe. It is infinitely more complex than chess. And AlphaGo, a computer programme from Deep Mind, has just beaten the World Champion.  Out of five games it won the four and the champion won one. Why is this important, and what’s it got to do with sustainability? 

Because there are so many possible moves in the game the computer cannot win by brute force, by trying every possible move before making its choice. There are just too many choices. The machine has trained itself, a bit like a human, by practising - playing the game again and again. It has the advantage that it can play very much faster than a human and it can remember everything that it has learnt. It can’t actually move the pieces and it can’t make a cup of tea after the game, so it isn’t going to take over the world very soon, but the implications for jobs and employment are significant. 

We have already seen machines take over routine jobs in supermarkets, banks, libraries, filling stations and post offices. This next generation of Artificial Intelligence is starting to think, to weigh up possibilities and evaluate strategies rather than just make simple rule-based decisions. This means that previously skilled professions, like the law and accountancy, may increasing use expert systems instead of paralegals or articled clerks. The Treasury and the Financial Conduct Authority are evaluating robotic financial advisors which are already available on line. As more jobs are automated there will be even fewer opportunities for young people, graduates or not, to get worthwhile employment or any employment at all. It will probably also displace older workers, many of whom are struggling to reach higher pension ages.

A sustainable economy must surely depend on a degree of social equity, and until now paid employment has been the means of wealth distribution. If there are no longer jobs for all, the risk is that the divide between rich and poor in society will become dramatically wider. One suggested solution is a basic income for all, paid regardless of employment status, so everyone can enjoy a basic standard of living. It would give people security between jobs, help those too ill to work and provide a buffer while people work to set up their own businesses. Presumably it would be clawed back through the tax system from people on higher incomes. It would replace some existing benefits, together with the related administration costs. Justin Trudeau, the new Canadian prime minister, is an advocate of the idea and there are moves to set up a pilot scheme in Ontario.

We live in interesting times.

Limits to presidential power

COP21 - the Paris Climate Change Agreement - is strongly opposed by many politicians in the United States. Some claim that it is an international treaty, and therefore beyond the power of the president to accept unilaterally.

Here’s an extract from a paper by Stephen Groves, Senior Research Fellow at The Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom.

Unless and until the White House submits the Paris Agreement to the Senate for its advice and consent, the Senate should block all funding for its implementation, including any funds for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) or any other financing mechanism included in the President’s umbrella Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI).
Congress should also withhold funding for the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to prevent future Administrations from participating in COP meetings and causing additional harm to U.S. national interests. Finally, Congress should take preventative legislative measures to ensure that no funding tied to implementation of the Paris Agreement is authorized or expended through other vehicles such as appropriations for the EPA or other executive branch agencies.

Find the complete text at:

Interesting times indeed.

Queen Street Mill

Last week I told you that I was going to visit Queen Street Mill.

On the podcast you’ll hear the sounds of Queen Street Mill in operation.

It’s more than a rumour that the mill, along with other museums in the North, will close although it’s not clear exactly when. On Saturday 12th March the i newspaper published a front-page article about it headed “Betrayal of the North.” I wrote this letter which they published the following Monday:

Thank you for Saturday's report on museums at risk in the North. Last Thursday I was at Burnley's Queen Street Mill, taking photos, video and sound recordings before it's all gone. This is not just the last mill of its type in Lancashire, it's the last working steam-powered textile mill in the world. It will be open until the end of the month - including the whole of the Easter weekend - but after that the staff are not clear what will happen. They fear that if it's locked up and left it will just rust and never run again. 

Regardless of whether these museums are in the North or the South they are an irreplaceable part of our heritage and an educational resource. It would take a relatively small amount amount of money to preserve them by comparison with, say, the £60m of public money promised to London's private "Garden Bridge". Perhaps George Northern Powerhouse Osborne could make a gesture in Wednesday's budget.

Did he make a gesture? Well he didn’t say anything about it in the speech, but there may be something in the budget book. I’ll have a look at that over the week and let you know what I find next time.

Not much to say about Hinkley C and EDF. Not much that you won’t have heard about already. Last Sunday The Observer suggested that it was one of George Osborne’s pet projects and cancellation could mean the end of his leadership hopes. It all goes to show that if you look hard enough you’ll always find a silver lining.

That’s it for another week. This is Anthony Day winding up your weekly Sustainable Futures Report, urging you to sign up for the Sustainable Best Practice Exchange at and dashing off to find more interesting and important issues to report on. Of course, if you have something to say, something to ask or something you think should be covered, please get in touch. That’s

Yes, that was the Sustainable Futures Report, this is Anthony Day and that’s the end!

Who’s having kittens?

This episode was published as a podcast on 11th March at

Kittens? Kittens?
Could this be an unscrupulous attempt to boost internet hits for the Sustainable Futures Report - even to start it trending by talking about kittens? Perish the thought. Although the photo
is really cute. Mind you, the news about the Hinkley C nuclear power station just gets worse and worse so somebody’s having kittens. I’ll examine who that’s likely to be. It’s all part of the global energy infrastructure. We spoke about that this week at the local branch of the United Nations Association. There’s been a lot about energy in the news. I hear David Cameron has fallen out of love with Swansea Bay and apparently npower has fallen out of love with about 2,500 employees who will shortly be out of a job. 
Who gives a stuff? What? Well it’s funny you should mention that. Steve Howard of furniture retailer IKEA recently suggested that we’re close to peak stuff. We’ve got more stuff than we know what to do with. This trend is borne out by a report from the Office of National Statistics. In this episode I look at the Restart Project and do you know where all the civil servants are who manage the Northern Powerhouse? Where do you think they are based? Guess again.

Yes, I’m Anthony Day with your weekly Sustainable Futures Report for Friday 11th March. As usual, it’s brought to you without advertising, subsidy or sponsorship, so this time I’m going to take a moment to tell you about my Sustainable Best Practice Exchange which takes place in Harrogate on 14th April. I’m delighted to report that our opening keynote speaker is confirmed as Wouter Van Tol, Director of Sustainability and Citizenship at Samsung Electronics Europe. Taking as his theme One Step at a Time: Moving Towards a More Sustainable Business Wouter will draw on his experiences at Samsung, and share his knowledge on what organisations need to be doing in order to move towards a more sustainable business, across areas including energy, supply chain, and skills.

Joining Wouter is a whole host of expert panellists, including Gareth Williams, Energy and Environment Manager for Northern Rail; Shaun McCarthy OBE, chair of the Supply Chain Sustainability School; Dexter Galvin, head of CDP’s Supply Chain Programme and Tim Balcon, CEO of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment.  In addition to the panel sessions, experts will lead 50-minute roundtable discussions where you can both learn and share your own experience and expertise.

The smart scheduling system will let you book your own panel sessions and roundtable places in advance, and set up one-to-one meetings with other delegates.

Tailor the event to your own skills and interests for a value-packed day. You’ll be sorry to miss it!

All the information is at 
Now listen carefully - here’s the deal. Contact me at mentioning the exclusive codeword, which is kitten (it’s different for everyone, really) and I’ll sort you out a really good price. Even better if you bring a friend.

OK, down to business. The energy business. I’ve spoken about the planned new nuclear power station, Hinkley C, in a lot of episodes recently, but this week it’s hit the headlines again. The main news is that Thomas Piquemal, finance director of EDF the company planning to build the station, has resigned. He was concerned that the £18bn project would be just too big for EDF and threaten the company’s survival. His departure follows fellow director Chris Bakken who left EDF last month. It’s been suggested that Piquemal’s departure is likely to make it easier for the project to go ahead as his opposition is removed. Certainly both the British and French governments have re-iterated their support for the project. There are many commentators expressing serious doubts about it. You’ll remember that similar stations are under construction in Finland and northern France, both seriously over budget and years behind schedule. There are doubts about the safety of the pressure vessel at the French site. If it is condemned by the nuclear inspectorate the building will have to be partially demolished to remove and replace the rejected component. With that still unknown, it is little wonder that EDF is still struggling to raise the finance to go ahead, even though the Chinese have been persuaded to invest £6 billion.

Across the Bristol Channel there are plans to build the 
Swansea Bay tidal lagoon. This will produce electricity for 14 hours per day for 120 years. It’s only a tenth of the size of Hinkley C in output terms at 320MW, but at £1billion it costs around half as much per MW. It’s expected to take 5 years to build, so could come on stream 5 years earlier than Hinkley C. Of course, if it’s only one tenth the size, Swansea Bay is no alternative to Hinkley C, but it’s surely worth doing. The government doesn’t seem to think so. Last month David Cameron said he was losing his enthusiasm for the project because of the cost. Energy minister Andrea Leadsom followed up by saying that the interests of bill-payers had to be taken into account and the strike price for energy from the lagoon would be too high. The strike price for energy from Hinkley C will be £92.50, index-linked for 35 years, and has been criticised as extortionate since it is about twice the current average price for electricity. To be fair it is still less than some guaranteed rates for offshore wind, but Swansea Bay is expected to come in at £96.50, which is not vastly more than £92.50. There are indications that this could be reduced if the guarantee period is based on 90 years rather than 35.  I can’t immediately see why the strike price for Swansea should be higher than Hinkley if the construction cost is significantly lower pro-rata. If you’re an expert perhaps you could let me know! According to, the design life of Hinkley C of 60 years is half that of Swansea Bay. It is not clear whether decommissioning costs for Hinkley C have been taken into account in these prices, but these costs will be considerable and will be underwritten by the government. (That’s you and me, as taxpayers, or probably our grandchildren.)

Ministers have announced a wide-ranging review into the untested technology to be used. No, not at Hinkley C, but at Swansea Bay.  A decision on crucial subsidies for the lagoon will not be taken until after the conclusion of the review, expected in the autumn, says the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Long grass, anyone?

The European Pressurised Reactor to be used at Hinkley is of course untested technology, but there are no reports at present of any wide-ranging review of that.

Well, while we’re waiting, what about a neighbourhood nuclear powerplant? The Guardian reports:
“Nuclear power plants smaller than a garden shed and able to power 20,000 homes will be on sale within five years, say scientists at Los Alamos, the US government laboratory which developed the first atomic bomb.
The miniature reactors will be factory-sealed, contain no weapons-grade material, have no moving parts and will be nearly impossible to steal because they will be encased in concrete and buried underground.”

That report is dated November 2008. I don’t think any deliveries have yet been made. But wouldn't there be a terrorist threat with all that nuclear material in every community?
Ah, but we’ll be able to sort that out with Trident, won’t we? Won’t we?

Seriously, we didn’t have an energy crisis over the winter because we had the warmest winter on record. During this year older power stations will be retired. Unless something is done to fill the capacity gap the risk of outages next winter will rise. It will take 10 years from the start date of Hinkley C construction for it to start producing power, but there is no start date. There is no start date for Swansea Bay. The government must surely be concerned. It’s going to be extremely difficult to plug the supply gap soon enough - even with renewables, which are generally quite quick to build. Time, surely, for a national initiative to manage demand. A replacement for the Green Deal which works, to make the housing stock warmer for less. Taxes on energy for business to encourage more efficient use of energy. We must look very hard at climate change agreements which give many industries tax breaks for competitive reasons. Has that gone too far? Support for renewables at the domestic and industrial level will also help to cut demand on the central generators. I’m not advocating increased FIT levels, but the levels should be set and fixed. FITs should probably fall to zero in little more than 5 years, but the timeline should be known and respected so that businesses can plan and prosper. All of this would create jobs, which in turn would create tax revenues. Energy prices might rise, but the lights are more likely to stay on. Am I missing something?

Also in this week’s energy news is the announcement from npower that it is to cut 2,400 jobs. Not all of these are in the UK and they do not relate to power generation. They will affect staff in the administration and billing areas. npower lost 424,000 customers last year, or about 7% of its business. In December, it was fined £26m for sending out late and often inaccurate bills and failing to handle customer complaints effectively. Ofgem, the energy regulator, said more than 500,000 customers had been affected and npower’s parent, RWE, said the mistakes were embarrassing.

A quick look at the oil price in passing. It’s around $40, well up from the sub-$30 price at the turn of the year. The reason is apparently rising demand for gasoline. Is this more than a blip? With Iran increasing production now that sanctions are off and Saudi showing no signs of reducing production, I think that’s all it can be.

Energy is a global issue. At a meeting United Nations Association in Harrogate this week we looked at Global Goal No.7 - Sustainable Energy for All. The United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development are targets for completion by 2030.

The Objectives of Global Goal No. 7 are to:

  1. Provide universal access to electricity
  2. Increase the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. (Double by 2030)
  3. Increase energy efficiency of buildings, industry, agriculture and transport
  4. Phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption

In the developed world our priority must be to phase out fossil fuels and eliminate the harmful emissions they produce.

In the developing world there is a range of challenges to overcome.

  • 20% of the global population (1.5bn) has no access to electricity
  • 40% of the world’s population (3.0bn) uses biomass, charcoal or coal for cooking, often burning it indoors.
  • In many communities kerosene lanterns are the only source of light where there is no electricity

This leads to:

  • The fumes from cooking fires cause 1.5-2 million premature deaths each year: twice as many as malaria.
  • Women spend many hours collecting firewood
  • Kerosene lanterns create carbon black (soot), which has been identified as a contributor to global warming.
  • Families with no electricity and no money for kerosene have no light after dark and so cannot study in the evenings.

Achievement of this goal - and the others - requires action by the world community. That can be governments or that can be us as individuals. That can involve lobbying the government on our national energy policy or supporting charities to bring renewable and sustainable energy to developing countries. It’s a global issue. It affects us all. We can all do something about it.

I mentioned Stuff.
At a recent Guardian Sustainable Business debate Steve Howard, Sustainability Director at furniture retailer IKEA said that in the West we have probably reached “peak stuff”, the point at which we want to buy fewer and fewer things.

But Howard said his comments did not contradict Ikea’s target of almost doubling sales by 2020, and that changes in consumption were an opportunity for companies to rethink the way they did business. Ikea was trying to help customers live in a more environmentally friendly way, he added.
“We will be increasingly building a circular Ikea where you can repair and recycle products.”

The circular economy in practice.

The slow-down in consumption of stuff is borne out by a new report from the Office of National Statistics: UK Environmental Accounts: How much material is the UK consuming?

It tells us that:
  • The amount of material consumed in the UK has fallen from a peak in 2001 of 15.1 tonnes per person to 10.3 tonnes per person in 2013. 
  • Although the weight of imported products has generally increased since 2000, the quantity of raw material required to manufacture the imported products has decreased, suggesting improved resource efficiency.
  • Over the 2000 to 2013 period, resource productivity (the relationship between economic activity and material consumption), in the UK has positively increased, rising 59.4% from £1.87 per kilogram in 2000 to £2.98 per kilogram in 2013.

Looking at it another way, this means that for every £1 that consumers spend they are spending more of it on services rather than goods. Consumers are buying digital downloads instead of CDs or DVDs. They are buying experiences - travel, holidays, sport and leisure activities - rather than furniture and gadgets. The gadgets they do buy are far smaller and compact than they were and hence need less material. White goods now use less material in manufacture, avoiding the costs of scrap and reducing the weight of goods to be transported. Any trend towards reducing the use of raw materials in this world of rising population and rising demand must be good news.

I’ve come across The Restart Project, which is concerned with a different aspect of the material cycle. Here’s what it says on their website:
“Electronic waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in many countries including the UK. While recycling is important, we intervene before disposal – inspiring people to buy for longevity and to divert electronics from waste.
The Restart Project is a London-based social enterprise that encourages and empowers people to use their electronics longer, by sharing repair and maintenance skills.
Through community and workplace events we create engaging opportunities to extend the lifespan of electronics and electrical equipment. At our events 2,477 participants aided by 3,171 hours of volunteered time worked on 1,655 devices. We also spread our message through public speaking and our weekly podcast.” (I’ll have to check that out.)

Sounds like a good idea. Maybe someone should set one up outside London. Find out more at 

Department of Misleading Statistics
Headlines this week claim that 97.6% of the civil servants that are responsible for the Northern Powerhouse are based in London. What actually happened was that Louise Haigh, Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley, asked what proportion of senior civil servants in the Department for Communities and Local Government was based in London. Not a word about the Northern Powerhouse. Back came the answer: 97.6%. The Department is responsible for all communities and all local government throughout the country. There is no story. At least, not on the basis of that question.

And that’s all we’ve got time for, as they say on Radio 4. Sorry Tom, you’ll just have to run faster. I’m off to the North West Sustainable Business Quarterly meeting and on the way I’m going to call in at the Queen Street Mill in Burnley. It’s the last operating steam-powered textile mill in the world, and I hear there are plans to close it at the end of the month. I’ll tell you more next week. In fact I hope I’ll tell you more next week. I’ve been called for jury service, so for the next two weeks I will either be sitting around with time on my hands or I’ll be locked in a courtroom away from the world. Either way, there will be another Sustainable Futures Report. Eventually. (I haven’t missed a week since November 2014.) The full archive is at

I’m Anthony Day. Thanks for listening. I’ll be back!

News from all Parts

This episode was published as a podcast on Friday 4th March at

There’s a lot of different stories in the news at the moment. Al Gore’s back and he’s optimistic. Oil is making the news again in several different ways. Thames Water is floating a new idea for installing solar panels, Google has had a crash, Client Earth is suing the government, we’ve had the warmest winter since 1659 and plastic microbeads are a bigger problem than you might think.

Yes, this is Anthony Day with the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday 4th March.

Before we start, let me remind you that booking is open for the Sustainable Best Practice Exchange which takes place in Harrogate on 14th April. The opening keynote speaker will be Wouter Van Tol, Director of sustainability and citizenship at Samsung Electronics Europe. Go to 

In his latest TED talk Al Gore makes the case for optimism on climate change. 

Al Gore has three questions about climate change and our future. First: Do we have to change? Each day, global-warming pollution traps as much heat energy as would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs. This trapped heat is leading to stronger storms and more extreme floods, he says: "Every night on the TV news now is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation." Second question: Can we change? We've already started. So then, the big question: Will we change? In this challenging, inspiring talk, Gore says yes. "When any great moral challenge is ultimately resolved into a binary choice between what is right and what is wrong, the outcome is foreordained because of who we are as human beings," he says. "That is why we're going to win this.” Watch it now, well, after you’ve listened to the rest of this. You’ll find it at 

We can trap some of that heat and energy that Al Gore’s talking about with solar panels, but one problem with that is finding somewhere to put them, especially in the crowded southeast of England.
Europe’s biggest ever floating solar panel array is being installed on London’s Queen Elizabeth II reservoir as part of Thames Water’s ambitious bid to self-generate a third of its own energy by 2020. 

According to the press release, just over 23,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels will be floated on the reservoir near Walton-on-Thames, utilising a normally redundant suburban space on the surface, following an agreement between Thames Water, Ennoviga Solar and Lightsource Renewable Energy.
The innovative floating pontoon will cover around a tenth of the reservoir – enough to fill eight Wembley football pitches.

The low carbon, renewable energy produced will be used to help power the nearby water treatment works putting downward pressure on customer bills. It will have a total installed peak capacity of 6.3 megawatts and is expected to generate 5.8 million kilowatt hours in its first year – equivalent to the annual consumption of around 1,800 homes.

As well as setting a target of generating 33% of its own renewable energy by 2020, Thames Water is striving to become more efficient to reduce its reliance on the grid. It generated a total of 12.5% of its electricity requirements from renewable sources in 2014/2015, which is a 4% increase on the year before. In 2015, Thames Water pledged to support the objectives of the Paris Agreement to limit the global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius and this project will contribute to achieving this goal. 

As we’ve said before, it’s businesses, not governments, that are taking the lead in fulfilling the Paris Agreement. 

At the Green Party Conference, leader Natalie Bennett called for a ban on microbeads in cosmetic products.
She said: “The government’s plan to work with the cosmetics industry for a voluntary phase-out is simply inadequate. They have acknowledged that these cause biological and toxicological harm in the oceans, but they are failing to act.

“The United States, with the full backing even of Republicans, has agreed a ban by April 2017. Britain surely can act as quickly, if not quicker.”

Microbeads are tiny solid plastic balls and can be found in some toothpastes, body scrubs and other cosmetics and give products a “speckled” appearance.
The beads serve an aesthetic purpose but some manufacturers also claim they can help with exfoliation or cleaning.
However they do not biodegrade and so can cause environmental damage when washed down the drain.
They are not filtered out by water treatment plans and it has been suggested that they can carry toxins once they themselves become contaminated. Scientists around the world are worried about the health implications to humans who eat seafood contaminated by these micro-plastics. Seabirds who mistake them for food may also be at risk.

You can download an app from which will enable you to identify products which contain microbeads, so you can avoid buying them. It’s been suggested that if we go on as we are there will be as much plastic as fish in the oceans by 2050.

Time for action.

And now here is the weather forecast. It's going to snow, but you can't grumble because the Met office has just reported that we have been through the warmest winter in England since 1659. Temperatures have averaged 7℃, beating the   previous 6.8℃ record which was set in 1868. Maybe there is something in this global warming thing.

Client Earth at is a group of activist lawyers committed to securing a healthy planet. An estimated 40,000 people are killed by air pollution in the UK each year, according to a new report from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP). It says emissions from diesel vehicles have to be tackled to reduce the terrible toll of air pollution on our health.

ClientEarth won its clean air legal battle against the UK government in April last year, when the Supreme Court ordered the government to produce new plans to tackle pollution as soon as possible. 
The final plans produced by the government in December will not do this, so unless they are drastically changed ClientEarth will be taking the government back to court.

Commenting on the report, ClientEarth lawyer, Alan Andrews, said: “The fact that these highly respected institutions - the European Environment Agency, the World Health Organisation, The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, as well as the Royal College of Physicians -
have felt moved to produce such a strong report on the devastating health effects of air pollution in the UK should press the government into urgent action. All we’ve seen from the authorities to this point has been feet-dragging and excuses.”

You're listening to Anthony day with the sustainable futures report. Before we talk about the all industry here’s news just in from America:

Google is continuing to experiment with self driving cars and this week one of them hit a bus. It was a very low speed collision and no-one was hurt. It's the price of research.

According to Bloomberg, electric cars are going to cause significant damage - to the oil industry.
Reporting for Bloomberg Business, Tom Randall says 

"It’s looking like the 2020s will be the decade of the electric car. Battery prices fell 35 percent last year and are on a trajectory to make unsubsidized electric vehicles as affordable as their gasoline counterparts in the next six years, according to a new analysis of the electric-vehicle market by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). That will be the start of a real mass-market liftoff for electric cars.
"By 2040, long-range electric cars will cost less than $22,000 (in today’s dollars), according to the projections. Thirty-five percent of new cars worldwide will have a plug.
"This isn’t something oil markets are planning for, and it’s easy to see why. Plug-in cars make up just one-tenth of 1 percent of the global car market today. They’re a rarity on the streets of most countries and still cost significantly more than similar gasoline burners. OPEC maintains that electric vehicles (EVs) will make up just 1 percent of cars in 2040. Last year ConocoPhillips Chief Executive Officer Ryan Lance told me EVs won’t have a material impact for another 50 years—probably not in his lifetime.
"But here’s what we know: In the next few years, Tesla, Chevy, and Nissan plan to start selling long-range electric cars in the $30,000 range. Other carmakers and tech companies are investing billions on dozens of new models. By 2020, some of these will cost less and perform better than their gasoline counterparts. The aim would be to match the success of Tesla’s Model S, which now outsells its competitors in the large luxury class in the U.S. The question then is how much oil demand will these cars displace? And when will the reduced demand be enough to tip the scales and cause the next oil crisis?
We found that electric vehicles could displace oil demand of 2 million barrels a day as early as 2023. That would create a glut of oil equivalent to what triggered the 2014 oil crisis."

Of course, there are several questions that need to be answered. Will car manufacturers bring down prices as rapidly as predicted? Will there be enough electricity? Will there be an infrastructure of charging points?

Read the full article on the Bloomberg website. It’s also presented as a video. Search for Bloomberg ev oil crisis.

I asked James Spencer of Portland Fuels for his opinion.

I believe this is (roughly) what is going to happen, he said,  and as I have said before, it will be business (ie, the car companies) that will enable the change. The rapid development of battery technology will be the game changer.

However, there are still challenges in the argument presented;

  • Heavy payload transportation (Ships, Trucks and Buses) and Aviation are a long way off an electric solution. That may not matter too much if you simply want to reduce carbon emissions, but if carbon zero is the target, then there remains a pretty major problem. In the UK alone, non-consumer transportation accounts for 50% of fuel consumption and that figure is considerably higher in the developing world.
  • Infrastructure issues for “filling-up” – particularly in developing world.
  • The overall power-balance. Everyone still underestimates just how much energy will be used by millions of electric cars and once they start competing with power generation for electricity, there will be a crunch. A political “hot potato” to say the least.

Big Oil faces courtroom showdown, says Jeremy Leggett. You remember Jeremy published his book, The Winning of the Carbon War, which reached its climax at the time of the Paris conference last year. You can buy it from All profits to the SolarAid charity.

He reports that ExxonMobil is being investigated by the Attorneys General of New York and California with a view to criminal charges for securities fraud and racketeering over their stance on climate change. The ramifications are enormous for the course of the global energy transition.

The oil and gas giant stands accused of lying to its shareholders for many years. On the one hand it professed that climate change was a green scaremongers’ invention, and paid many millions of dollars to organisations devoted to torpedoing the international climate negotiations that began in 1991. Meanwhile, on the other hand, it suppressed its own research proving the dangers of climate change, yet built assumptions of global-warming-driven sea-level rise into engineering of coastal and offshore infrastructure.

Why does this make me think about the tobacco industry? Anyway, you can find more on this story at 

Do you remember the Gatwick Gusher?  In April last year
UK Oil & Gas claimed to have found 100 billion barrels of oil beneath the Weald in southeast England. Their shares went wild. At the time I wondered how the UK Geological Survey could have missed it, but then things quietened down. This week UK Oil & Gas announced that their exploratory drillings have revealed a potential 1,360 barrels/day from their two site. Their share price rose 14% on the news. Oil is trading at around $37/barrel at present. Is that enough to make producing the oil viable?

According to, investors have pumped a whopping $9.2 billion in new equity into US energy companies year to date, the most since Bloomberg records began in 1999.
Even the experts, they say, are stunned by this unprecedented glut in stupidity of managers of other people's money: "Billions of dollars of dilutive equity continue to roll in with seemingly no end in sight," Houston-based oil investment bank Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. said in a research note.

I think the key phrase is “other people’s money”. I hope it’s not yours or mine.

And that’s it for another Sustainable Futures Report. I’m Anthony Day, speaker, writer, conference chair and workshop leader. Come and meet me at the Sustainable Best Practice Exchange in Harrogate on 14th April. 

Of course there will be several more episodes of the Sustainable Futures Report before then. Listen again next week.

Bye for now!