IET: Wind turbines and solar panels are not the best way for homes to reduce carbon emissions

Pandering to policy makers who see the future of UK energy defined by expensive “eco-bling” solutions will have disastrous effects for the government and for consumers.

That’s the warning from the incoming president of Europe’s largest engineering membership body. Dr. Nigel Burton, who formally assumes the presidency of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) this Thursday, will offer credence to the coalition government’s position of reviewing the UK’s energy framework.

In a call to action for the engineering policy community, Dr. Burton will suggest that there need be no gap in time before money-saving energy policy can be introduced. This could be achieved, he says, by reducing subsidies for some current high-cost, low-saving initiatives.

In his wide ranging inaugural speech, Dr Nigel Burton says some technologies “are a serious misallocation of resources if the principal objective is cost-effective emissions reduction. Early enthusiasm for domestic wind turbines has waned as it has become clear that in general these have no economic value and in some cases consume more electricity than they produce.” The subsidies for solar photovoltaics risk repeating the expensive mistakes made in Germany.

Dr Burton argues that “Reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 will require a complete redesign of UK energy production and consumption.” He goes on to say that these changes will require investment of an estimated £400 billion by 2050.

One of his key recommendations is to focus on the decarbonisation of electricity production. He also claims that widespread public “conversion to electronic vehicles should be given a high priority.” He goes on to make the wider point that “most hopes of achieving the carbon reduction targets rest on increased electrification of the economy and decarbonisation of the power sector.” However, that is no easy change as about 78% of electricity generation is currently from coal and gas.

Dr. Burton, makes his opening address at the IET’s London headquarters, with a widely anticipated discourse on energy, entitled ”Keeping the lights on – an inconvenient truth’. The lecture will be attended by IET members, policymakers and the public.


Notes to Editors

Interviews with Dr Nigel J Burton BSc(Eng) PhD CEng FIET are available upon request.
Journalists wishing to attend the inauguration speech in central London should inform the IET Press Office – see contact details below.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology is Europe’s largest professional society of engineers with 150,000 members in 127 countries.

Dr Nigel Burton will give his inaugural lecture as President of the IET on Thursday 7 October at 18:30 at the Institution of Engineering and Technology in Savoy Place, London, WC2R 0BL.

Dr Nigel Burton became the President of the IET on 1 October 2010. The previous President was Professor Christopher Snowden. The IET changes President every 12 months. Nigel has been actively involved in the IET for over 25 years.

Nigel has over 14 years’ experience of Investment Banking at leading City institutions including UBS Warburg and Deutsche Bank, principally as the managing director responsible for the energy and utilities industries. Nigel graduated in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from University College London, before undertaking a PhD in Acoustic Imaging. Nigel is an active angel investor, focusing on technology, media and energy businesses.

For further information please contact:

Jonny Holdcroft
Press Officer
T:+44 (0)1438 765608
M: +44 (0)7766445774


Robert Beahan
Press Officer
T: +44 (0)1438 767336
M: +44 (0)7595400912