Billed as a critique of wind energy, last night’s IET lecture at Austin Court in Birmingham was in fact more wide-ranging, explaining greenhouse gas reduction targets and giving a balanced account of various ways they can be met in the UK, in Europe and globally. The speaker John Loughhead, Executive Director of the UK Energy Research Centre, told a very clear story and provided a great deal of useful graphical information to support his presentation. Slides now available here, courtesy of the IET.

He gave a particularly illuminating account of progress to date on smart grids, and was not afraid to suggest that the project is to some extent being driven by suppliers of the sophisticated equipment that would be needed in order for it to go ahead. In support of this view he pointed out that there is a great deal of work being done on the end state but that there is in his view not enough thought being given to the transition.

The gathering being one of electrical rather than social engineers, it was perhaps inevitable that there would me more focus on supply-side technologies and demand management rather than on the non-technological question of how as a population we can make a transistion towards simply using less energy. It was hard not to be left feeling that, even if all the technology works as predicted, we need somehow to find a way to start making our economy less energy-intensive.