Climate Perspectives - Spring 2023 edition

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for changemakers

“It’s clear that more needs to be done to accelerate the energy transition.
” Lena Sundquist
Image: Lena Sundquist , CEO, Climeon
Contents Accelerating Net-Zero with Waste Heat Recovery Lena Sundquist Chief Executive Officer Climeon In climate conversation with… Professor Sarah Sharples Chief Scientific Adviser for the Department for Transport Got an article in mind? Publisher Shawn Coles Interviewer Andy Walker All enquiries 6 12 COVER STORY SPRING 2023 | Climate Perspectives

A climate perspective

Two boys sat on a parched ground due to water shortages caused by global warming.

Credit: boonchok /

What does an evidence-based energy transition look like? Zion Lights, Science Communicator and Author Why it is time to shed light for the sake of the night Nick Dunn, Director, Dark Design Lab, Lancaster University ‘25 by 2025’ The Mission Zero approach Chris Skidmore MP, Net Zero Tsar Circular economy for aluminium: Beyond recycling Christopher Pilgrim, Knowledge Transfer Manager - Materials, Innovate UK KTN 20 24 28 16 Q2 2023 SPRING 2023 | Climate Perspectives Innovate UK Regular column © Binary Carbon 2023 The UK’s only not-for-profit climate magazine Contents

Accelerating Net-Zero with Waste Heat Recovery

Despite ambitious climate targets and increasing access to clean energy, fossil fuels remain the predominant source of global energy – and CO2 emissions are continuing to rise. As worldwide energy-related CO2 emissions hit an all-time high of 36.8 Gt (IEA, 2023), it’s clear that more needs to be done to accelerate the energy transition.

To date, the environmental impact of fossil fuels and GHGs has been the catalyst for emissions reductions and net-zero ambitions, yet many industries are not on track to hit upcoming climate targets (IEA, 2023)

While renewable energy consumption is increasing, replacing fossil

fuel-generated power with a renewable alternative is not always a straightforward process. Due to this, it’s vital that we maximize energy efficiency across all forms of energy production and increase the utilization of renewable energy.

In doing so, we can successfully reduce harmful GHG emissions, simplify the decarbonization process and accelerate the path to net-zero.

Repurposing waste heat to maximize energy efficiency

Power generation, transportation and industrial processes are the largest producers of GHGs, yet 50% of energy consumed across these sectors is

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A climate perspective

Svinafellsjokull Glacier, Iceland. Since the 1990s 90% of Iceland's glaciers have been retreating.

Credit: Blue Planet Studio /

lost as waste heat. By utilizing this waste heat to generate carbon-free electricity, we can increase total energy outputs, reduce fossil fuel consumption and lower emissions.

In the maritime industry, for example, waste heat recovery (WHR) is being used on board a variety of vessels to reduce reliance on fuelpowered generators and transition towards sustainable shipping. While renewable maritime biofuels largely remain in the development phase, cleantech solutions, like WHR, are bridging the gap between high emissions and full decarbonization –but the benefits don’t stop there.

WHR produces green electricity by utilizing a hot input source (waste heat) and a cold input source, such as water, in conjunction with an environmentally friendly working media. Using the Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) thermodynamic principle, this type of WHR enables relatively low temperature waste heat to be used to generate carbonfree power, thus increasing the applicability of WHR and maximizing its potential clean energy output.

Supporting the renewable expansion with WHR

As renewable energy utilization continues to increase, WHR supports the transition to a net zero future by maximizing energy efficiency across both fossil fuel and renewable energy consumers.

When energy is produced, waste heat is still generated, regardless of whether the original fuel source is renewable or derived from fossil fuels – and WHR can deliver fiscal and environmental benefits in both scenarios.

Increasing energy efficiency allows energy producers and consumers to achieve the same power outputs with less fuel, thus reducing costs and emissions.

While renewables are less environmentally damaging than fossil fuels, many forms of renewables do still leave a carbon footprint (WNA, 2022). By integrating WHR into renewable energy production, such as biofuelpowered engines, emissions can be further reduced as energy efficiency is increased.


Diversifying the renewable energy mix

As renewables become more widely utilized, WHR supports the expansion of renewable power by increasing clean energy production, but this isn’t the only way that waste heat recovery can diversify and strengthen the renewable energy mix.

When used to generate electricity from geothermal energy, for example, WHR provides an additional source of renewable power that can be used alongside other renewables, such as solar power and hydropower.

Indeed, the applicability of ORC WHR enables low temperature geothermal resources to be converted into clean, carbon-free energy. This means that heat closer to the Earth’s surface can be used to generate renewable power, thus increasing the applicability and broadening the potential of geothermal energy as a form of accessible renewable power.

Smoothing the path to net-zero

Yet we are still lagging behind critical net-zero targets.

With 2030 Climate Target Plan deadlines looming, urgent action is needed if we are to succeed in mitigating the climate crisis, protecting the environment and achieving a net-zero future.

Fortunately, waste heat recovery is a cleantech solution that can be deployed quickly to deliver immediate results. Whatever stage a country, industry or company is at in their sustainable transition, WHR can accelerate their progress by maximizing energy efficiency and generating clean, on-site electricity.

Effectively supporting energy consumers through their energy transition and reducing emissions at each stage of the decarbonization process, WHR has the potential to be a valuable catalyst in the race for net zero and a critical component of a carbon-free future.

From spiraling energy costs and disrupted supply chains to global emissions and renewable innovations, energy has been a hot topic in recent times.

Climeon is a Swedish product company operating within the energy tech sector. Its proprietary technology, HeatPower 300, will convert lowtemperature waste heat into clean, carbon-free electricity and can be used throughout Energy, Industrial, Maritime and Geothermal sectors.


In climate conversation with…

Professor Sarah Sharples

A key individual involved in the fight to address climate change is professor Sarah Sharples, chief scientific adviser for the Department for Transport. Andy Walker caught up with her to find out what she does and her thoughts on a range of issues.

Like many people, Sarah Sharples was first interested in science and technology as a result of a BBC TV programme. “When I was young, I always watched Tomorrow’s World, a programme that talked about future science and innovation and technology. I remember technologies like the compact disc being demonstrated along communications

technologies that would change the way we lived. That first got me interested in science. The other thing that inspired me were the teachers in my school. I was lucky to have several who were really enthusiastic about science and technology and provided me with the basic education in chemistry and physics that I still use to this very day,” she says.

Sharples first became aware of climate change as an issue as a teenager. “There was information on the news about the ozone layer. It was understood as a specific scientific phenomenon, but not equated with the long-term impact of climate change.

Andy Walker, Interviewer, Climate Perspectives
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Professor Sarah Sharples

People thought that if we just stopped using aerosol cans then everything would be fine! It’s only been in recent years, with much more publicity around the long-term changes evidenced around climate change, that the issue moved forward in people’s consciousness,” says Sharples.

Sharples connects with many people in her day-to-day work. “As the chief scientific adviser, there is no such thing as a typical week,” she says. “I spend a lot of my time listening to different people. That could be chief scientific advisers in other government departments, ensuring that our advice is aligned, or it might be listening to and advising policy colleagues who have particular challenges they need to address about the options for future transport policy. I also spend a lot of time visiting academia and industry and feeding that expertise back into the Department for Transport,” she says.

Asked about the policy in decarbonising transport that she is most proud of, Sharples highlights an issue that is high on the agenda of many people - electric vehicles. “The work that my colleagues in the Department for Transport have done in having such a strong and firm commitment to the transition to electric vehicles is extremely powerful,” she says. “I can see the impact that has on industry but also academia, so we know that as we transition to electric propulsion, we need advances in technology, like battery innovation. Having such a clear commitment towards the transition to electric vehicles has

been crucial in energising that research in future battery technologies,” Sharples says. What about the other challenges facing Sharples and her colleagues? “Two key challenges come to mind,” she tells me. “We need to change the transport system. It is currently undergoing a change that it has not seen on this scale for well over 100 years, if ever. Not only are we seeing fundamental changes in how we power and fuel transport and technological changes, we also have the introduction of autonomy into the system, so there are really important regulatory changes that also need to happen. There’s a lot of joining the dots to be done, making sure all those moving parts fit together in the right way,” she explains.

Sharples is also keen to stress the importance of ensuring that the changes that are being introduced help everybody. “We know that the UK is a really diverse country and solutions that suit one part of the country, or one part of the population might not be the right solution for everyone, so making sure we understand user needs around transport and the way we design future policies is really important,” she says. “We need to design technologies and systems for the people who will be using them, including people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, disabilities, ages and experiences,” she explains.


Sharples also believes that improving the way that scientists and policy makers interact to foster a greater mutual understanding is crucial.

“Thinking about how scientists can communicate their research in ways that are meaningful to policy makers is something that we can always improve,” she says. “It’s really hard sometimes to communicate outcomes that are quite uncertain and quite complex in a way that’s helpful and we need to continue to work on this,” says Sharples.

As one of the few women working in a prominent role in the science and engineering arena, Sharples is conscious of the need for the sector to do more on diversity.

“The sector should be doing more to encourage diversity. I do still find myself in situations where I stand out because of my gender. Also, if we aren’t including women in our transport industry, we are missing out on 50% of the population and also 50% of diverse ideas of systems thinking and different ways in which we can come up with solutions to tackle the problems we face,” Sharples says.

Finally, I ask Sharples whether we can decarbonise transport in the UK before 2050? Her reply is stark, clear and to the point. “I think it’s really, really difficult, but I don’t think we’ve got any choice,” she says.

Professor Sarah Sharples

What does an evidence-based energy transition look like?

Do you know what a low carbon grid looks like?

It probably looks different to what you expect.

Unfortunately, few countries are geographically suited to producing large amounts of hydropower, and while intermittent renewables can be added to the grid to provide some of our energy needs, the data points are clear: we need to build more nuclear power plants for baseload power generation.

There’s also the problem of the inclusion of biomass in renewables figures around the world. Burning wood to create energy is archaic

and bad for the planet. Biofuels should not be classed as renewable.

While climate activists grab media headlines with arguments to just stop oil, too little discussion centres on the alternatives to oil and other fossil fuels. Usually, nuclear energy is the elephant in the room, and when it is mentioned it’s often by an opposing voice.

Yet there is scientific consensus that we need nuclear power to address climate change. Nuclear energy is included in all of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pathways for decarbonisation in its landmark 1.5°C report.

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This is alongside carbon capture technology and measures to reduce energy like insulating buildings.

Bizarrely, opponents of nuclear energy are still permitted a seat at the table for discussions of energy even though their perspective is no different to offering someone who is anti-vaccination a seat alongside doctors.

Nuclear energy saves lives: research by leading climate scientist James Hansen finds that it has saved more than two million people from early deaths due to air pollution produced by burning fossil fuels.

And the clean energy it has generated has saved 64 gigatonnes of greenhouse-gas emissions - around two years’ worth of total global

emissions - which would have been produced by the burning of fossil fuels.

The most common objection to nuclear energy is its waste, or spent fuel. Whilst this is indeed hazardous it is managed with rigorous safety and doesn’t harm anyone. Meanwhile, we dump waste from burning fossil fuels into the Earth’s atmosphere, polluting the air we breathe and killing millions of people a year through air pollution - an estimated one in five deaths worldwide according to Harvard University research.

Nuclear has the smallest land footprint of all energy sources, which is an important consideration in a small country like Britain where land is limited.


Nuclear also confers energy security, which events of the last year have shown the need for. Indeed France’s nuclear fleet was built as a response to the oil price shocks of the early 1970s following the war in the Middle East.

It is often claimed that nuclear energy is too expensive, often in comparison with Levellised Cost Of Energy (LCOE) figures (e.g. Lazard) for wind and solar, but these comparisons omit the costs of building storage, interconnects, demand-management systems or other means of providing low carbon energy reliably, 24/7. Nuclear power plants also have a far longer lifetime than wind and solar farms; 40-80 years compared to 15-25.

Nuclear energy can also be cheaper for the consumer: In 2019 France’s electricity, 71% of which came from nuclear energy, cost just 59% of that in Germany, which had been shutting down nuclear power since 2011 and is now mining for more coal. These points are rarely factored into discussions of cost. Meanwhile, the total cost of climate change damages to the UK is projected to increase from 1.1% of GDP at present to 3.3% by 2050 and 7.4% by 2100.

Another criticism is the time taken to build nuclear power stations, but a 2016 analysis found that of the 441 reactors then in operation around the world 18 were completed in just three years: twelve in Japan, three in the US, two in Russia and one in Switzerland, with a mean construction time globally of 7.5 years. Research into construction technology is informing practice such as at Hinkley Point C, and the skills and supply chains built for the first reactor streamline construction of subsequent units. The UK could become as much a leader in nuclear construction as it has become in offshore wind development, if it continues to deploy these skills and hold on to skilled workers who are assured of jobs working on new reactors.

Young people are experiencing high levels of eco-anxiety alongside financial concerns over their futures. If we don’t want them to block roads, we should be urging them towards well-paid, unionised, clean jobs building and operating nuclear power plants instead. After all, there are few better ways to actively help mitigate the climate emergency.

Zion Lights

Why it is time to shed light for the sake of the night

Light and dark are essential to our body clocks, informing us when to be active or rest. This is also true for many of the other species that we share the planet with. Yet artificial light at night can have profound impacts. When used carelessly, lighting disrupts wildlife, damages human health, wastes money and energy, contributes to climate change, and it blocks our view of the starry sky. This is where rethinking our values and taking actions can help us make important step changes towards a more sustainable collective future.

As diurnal creatures, humans are usually active in the daytime.

For thousands of years, most people went to sleep after sunset and became wakeful as it rose in the sky. With the advent of artificial illumination this relationship was fundamentally changed. We could increasingly control light and vanquish darkness. With successive developments of artificial lighting, the problem of light pollution has grown.

The rise of light pollution may be difficult for us to perceive however, it is now a global challenge. The scale of the problem was first revealed in 2016. 83% of people live under a light-polluted sky and in the UK, Europe, and North America the

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Night sky UK

figure is even higher at 99%. A recent 11-year citizen science study has shown that light pollution is not increasing at a rate of 2% per year, as previously thought, but at a much higher rate of around 10%.

Why does this matter? If we think about human health, unnecessary artificial light at night causes major problems. Disturbed sleep patterns are linked to a rise in obesity, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, depression and some forms of cancer. These concerns have not been reduced by the widespread installation of LED illumination, for the bluer-whiter tonalities of these lights potentially create even greater environmental harm. Impacts of light pollution are not simply limited to

people but can also affect biodiversity.

Many other species are nocturnal, and they have evolved accordingly within habitats that support their behaviours. Disrupting these rhythms comes at our peril. For birds and insects, they can be disorientated and even become trapped in artificial light. For sea turtles and beetles, using moonlight for navigation becomes impossible. Other animals’ patterns of predation, mating and survival, meanwhile, can also be significantly altered.

Despite these serious impacts, we still do not fully understand the cascading effects of all this upon our planet and its ecosystems.

Targeted downlighting

Being able to see a starry night sky can be truly mesmerising. It connects us, across time and space, to our ancestors and reminds us of our place in a vast and astonishing universe. However, most of us now live in areas where light pollution limits our ability to see the stars at night. Why is this a problem? Our relationship with dark skies throughout history has generated a sense of wonder and awe, as well as providing the basis for important cultural meanings and spiritual beliefs. In addition, as our knowledge about the world has grown, dark skies with their stars, moons, and planets have become crucial elements of our understanding of the universe and its role in our origins. By providing the basis for astronomy, dark skies have also offered a rich and ongoing inspiration for scientific discovery and creative interpretations.

Urbanisation has played a major part in this rise in light pollution. The work I do through the Dark Design Lab and as a Director of the International Dark-Sky Association UK, with various communities and groups includes raising awareness of key issues concerning urban places and their impact on dark skies. This includes leading collective night walks in cities so that people can

have positive experiences with places after dark, gain insights into nocturnal urban nature, and understand why dark skies are so important.

We know what needs to be done. The International Dark-Sky Association set out five key principles for responsible outdoor lighting, so why don’t we do it? Well, in theory it is as simple as flicking a switch, changing a bulb or fitting. In practice, however, our relationship with light and dark is much more complicated. We need to do more to protect our environment, and this is just as important at night as during the day. We must rethink our values and take action to ensure a safe, inclusive and sustainable night for everyone and everything. Now, more than ever, it is time for us to shed light for the sake of the night. After all, how we live during the day and night shouldn’t cost the Earth.


‘25 by 2025’ The Mission Zero approach

The Net Zero Review was established to undertake a review into how the UK might meet its net zero commitments in a more affordable and efficient manner, one which is pro-business, pro-enterprise and progrowth. The report has set out clearly the international opportunity for future investment and economic growth that net zero presents.

This opportunity must be seized however, if the UK is not only to maintain its international leadership on climate action, but also if the UK is to realistically compete with other nations who are making important strategic decisions over their own energy transitions.

There is no denying the fact that, forty-two months on from the UK signing net zero into law, we are now in a net zero race. To stand still, delay or maintain the status quo is not an option. International markets and investors are seeking to make decisions now on where to invest for the future. The UK can either seek to provide the incentives for investment as outlined in this Review along with the wider opportunities for job creation and local and regional regeneration, or else these markets will go elsewhere.

There is an active, strategic choice to be made. Does the UK wish to compete in the net zero race, with the chance to lead, or do we wish to

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Activists unite for climate change.

Credit: Valmedia /

A climate perspective

simply observe from the sidelines?

On the one hand, to lead, and to seek first mover advantage, brings with it the opportunity to attract inward investment, to generate new supply chains and lower the costs of wider deployment of clean technologies and industries. On the other hand, to follow, risks witnessing the opportunities for jobs, infrastructure and investments that could have been onshored in the UK go elsewhere in the world. We have reached a tipping point. The risks of ‘not zero’ are now greater than the associated risks of taking decisive action on net zero now.

The Review has outlined what is needed to effectively ‘deliver’ net zero investments: what must be achieved to deliver the certainty, clarity, and consistency needed from government policy and investment to de-risk the costs of private investment and capital expenditure.

There is a vital requirement for stable, long term, programmes, rather than piecemeal, short term, projects, if the UK is to meet its net zero ambitions in an affordable manner. Long term certainty for investment, allowing for supply chains to be created and secured, will drive down the costs of net zero at the

same time as making the UK a more attractive place to invest.

This is why we need a new approach to our Net Zero Strategy. One which identifies stable ten-year missions that can be established across sectors, providing the vision and security for stakeholders and investors. This ‘Mission Zero’ approach should set out long term missions across ten years, between 2025 to 2035, with clear mandates or missions to be achieved in this timescale. These Missions must include the infrastructure and governance requirements needed to achieve them, but also set ambitious goals that reflect the reality that by 2025, when the UK should fully launch its ten ‘Mission Zero’ missions, we will be just five years away from our 2030 NDC commitment, ten years away from our 2035 commitments to decarbonise the power sector and end petrol car sales, and ultimately twenty five years from the net zero 2050 target.

The establishment of a stronger, better planned and co-ordinated, long-term delivery for net zero across a core ten-year mission approach, does not prevent this government taking further action immediately, to better deliver net zero and maintain our climate leadership.


There are no regrets policy options that the Review believes the Government should adopt now, that are equally no excuses policy requirements in order to maintain our progress to deliver on our net zero commitments. While reflecting on the importance of creating more informed and accurate decisionmaking processes, there remains a substantial risk that to delay any further on certain policy requirements only diminishes the UK’s ability to act upon and deliver its net zero commitments. The risks of inaction will only damage further the ability of the UK to attract investment and scale up its infrastructure requirements, in the face of growing international competition.

The Review recommends that, alongside the comprehensive prescription of policies across all sectors outlined in the Report, that the Government meet the net present danger of not acting fast enough by taking forward a series of no regrets and no excuses policy recommendations that can be delivered now, as soon as possible. We have termed these the ‘25 by 2025’ that the Government must seek to take forward recognising that there is no time to waste.

This is not to suggest that these are the most important recommendations in the report but to recognise the essence of acting sooner rather than later. The ‘25 by 2025’ set out twentyfive policies that the Review believes that the Government can take forward now, to deliver meaningful change that will have a positive impact on the UK’s net zero ambitions. Of course, other recommendations must be taken forwards, but we recognise the need to above all build long term certainty and stability for these measures to succeed. The ‘25 by 2025’ can provide an immediate signal of the Government’s intent to deliver on net zero, but also to remove the barriers that are preventing business and industry going further, faster. .


Circular economy for aluminium: Beyond recycling

Aluminium has excellent properties for recycling, but there are great benefits in looking beyond recycling, towards re-use, remanufacture and repair in order to increase circularity of the sector. What are the issues that need to be addressed to adopt these approaches and build a circular economy for aluminium?

In February business leaders from the aluminium sector gathered at the Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills in Wolverhampton, together with representatives from government departments and research organisations, to prioritise interventions needed to accelerate circularity of aluminium in the UK.

It was clear there are significant benefits with increasing recycling, however, there is a great opportunity to see beyond recycling and to employ re-use, re-manufacture and repair approaches.

Recycling aluminium saves 97% of greenhouse gas emissions produced in the primary production process. Roger Morton, Managing Director for Technology and Innovation at EMR, described how they have demonstrated through a project in the re-use of steel in construction, that the steel I-beams have 10-fold less embodied CO2 compared to typical recycled steel. Hence, there is great potential for significant carbon savings by taking similar

Regular column
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approaches with aluminium, not to mention the other resources and energy that is saved.

The demand for lower carbon materials is expected to increase. For example, in the automotive industry, aluminium is being increasingly used due to its lightweight, high-strength properties. However, the typical battery powered electric car has approximately double the embodied carbon of an equivalent internal combustion engine car. Scope 3 emissions and embodied carbon are increasingly important for automotive manufacturers. As Alan Banks, UK Lightweight Innovations Manager, Ford Motor Company made clear, there is a business case for the UK to develop the infrastructure and capability here to meet this demand and reduce the reliance on imports. Furthermore, as resources become more and more scarce, security of supply will be critical in a global marketplace.

While there are technical challenges in developing the circular economy for aluminium, perhaps the greatest challenges are non-technical. Alessio Franconi, Research Fellow on the Circular Metal project at Brunel University, outlined the steps required to transform products,

systems and society to circular practices. These steps are complex and involve multiple stakeholders working together, but through collaboration small steps can help us learn how to move away from the linear economy. Ultimately, we need to align economic prosperity with circularity to accelerate widespread adoption.

The workshop sessions allowed participants to discuss and prioritise interventions to help accelerate circularity in aluminium. The Circular Economy Innovation Network, run by Innovate UK KTN, will use the outcomes from the workshop to deliver an action plan for aluminium that will be published later this year.

To find out more about Innovate UK KTN Circular Economy Innovation Network and how you can be involved go to




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