Energy and Land

Energy relies on land, and as we stop relying on buried sunshine and move to current solar flows, this will become increasingly the case. The images below show two examples of how energy use from land could be organised, in a schematic way. David MacKay puts energy land uses onto an image of the UK. CONTINUE READING

History of gas and electricity networks

History of electricity system Initially, electricity networks were developed independently in towns and cities, sometimes by the local government, sometimes by enterprising wealthy individuals, and so were a mixture of private and publicly owned local systems. These were electrically separate.  In some cases this provided a substantial income to local governments. From 1926 to 1933, the CONTINUE READING

Levelized Costs and Net Present Value

Economic forecasts used by government estimate the costs and benefits over the lifetime of a project, and usually involve hidden assumptions about the value of costs and benefits in the future relative to the costs and benefits in the present. The basic assumption is that we would rather pay more for something in the future, CONTINUE READING

Transactions and market mechanisms

The costs of the energy system are connected indirectly with the income to the energy system through market mechanisms. Were the ‘money in’ attempts to stick to income to the system, and ‘money out’ attempts to stick to the final payments and costs to the system as a whole, this chapter attempts to trace the CONTINUE READING

Money out – Cost structure

This section addresses what needs to be paid for in running the energy system – where the money goes out of the energy system. The way money flows between parties within the energy system is discussed here.  Main costs include: Generation of electricity Power station construction Operation and maintenance Fuel Purchasing of other energy  Import CONTINUE READING

Money In – Income Structure

Money goes into the energy system primarily through consumers paying their bills. This section therefore begins with examining how these bills are structured, and how pricing is set. Dissecting the energy bills The price of energy Domestic Most domestic electricity and gas tariffs are in two parts: A simple cost of energy that is a CONTINUE READING

Energy System Roles

There are a number of different energy system roles in the electricity and gas systems. These roles are addressed in detail in the chapters on ownership, money flows and governance and decision-making. They are described here to give an overview and definition. Electricity Generation This is the generation of electricity from primary energy e.g. coal, CONTINUE READING


Many people have helped this project in so many ways. Jen Ren and Liz Snook did a whole lot more illustration and design work than we had funds to pay for, and really cared about the project and what it was all about. Thanks Liz for the gorgeous illustrations, and Jen for being part of CONTINUE READING

A note of caution on energy efficiency

A note on efficiency Energy Efficiency is often promoted as the solution to all of our problems. However, it is worth thinking about a bit more carefully, as this is not always the panacea it seems to be. Efficiency is a ratio. That means it is a comparison of how much you get of something desirable CONTINUE READING

Energy demand and energy use

Discussions of energy typically use the word ‘demand’ to refer to the energy that is consumed. This fits with economic framings of ‘demand and supply’, and the way that the energy system is structured to allow unlimited demands for energy from users. This guide does not assume in advance what form of distribution would be CONTINUE READING


In 2017, 41% of UK energy demand and 37% of UK GHG emissions were from transport. The Zero Carbon Britain report by the Centre for Alternative Technology makes a proposal for shifting transport away from cars and onto busses, bicycles and motorbikes, and significantly reducing distances travelled. This is shown in the diagrams below. Transport CONTINUE READING


BEIS – department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (2016-current) Cost reflective – a way of organising markets so that the end-user pays an amount that reflects the cost of production Decarbonise – change a system so that it doesn’t emit carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gasses, to reduce its contribution to climate change DECC – CONTINUE READING


Bibliography Books about energy For an overview of the trade-offs and dilemmas we face in getting to zero carbon energy in the UK: Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air, David MacKay: available as a printed book or free to download: For an overview of the different types of renewable energy, how they work and CONTINUE READING

Energy Democracy

Energy Democracy What is energy democracy?  Broadly, energy democracy means that ‘the people’ have power over how our energy system works.  This includes users of energy and people working in the energy industry. The term energy democracy is being used by many different groups, including climate campaigners, community energy activists and trade unions. Energy democracy CONTINUE READING

Worldviews, values and framings

QUESTIONS: What are the political issues influencing the past, current and future of the energy system? What political ideologies underpin different approaches to the system? This section explores some of the political ideologies and approaches to the energy system, and discusses some of the values, worldviews and framing that are behind this guide. Mainstream and CONTINUE READING

Governance and decision making

QUESTIONS FOR ENERGY DEMOCRACY: How different can the rules of the energy system be?  What rules currently govern the technical management, ownership and value flows in the system?  How did it come to be this way? Who has the power to change the rules and how? Governance of the energy system is defined as ‘the CONTINUE READING

Money Flows

QUESTIONS: Where does money and value flow in the energy system? What needs to be paid for? How is this changing? How could this be done differently? How is the energy system financed? Who profits? In the 2015 general election, Ed Miliband promised to freeze energy bills. This may have been a vote-winner, but from CONTINUE READING

Organisations and ownership

QUESTIONS FOR ENERGY DEMOCRACY:  Who owns the GB energy system? Why does ownership matter? What alternative forms of ownership are being developed and proposed? How can changes in ownership be achieved? Before going into detail on how the energy system is currently owned and could be owned, let’s think a bit more about what ownership CONTINUE READING

Energy storage and transportation infrastructure

Energy storage and transportation infrastructure Questions for energy democracy: How do we get energy from where it is available when it is available to where it is needed when it is needed?  The GB energy system currently includes several energy transport infrastructures: gas and electricity networks, road networks for transporting liquid heating and transport fuels, CONTINUE READING

Energy capture infrastructure

QUESTIONS FOR ENERGY DEMOCRACY: Where do we get energy from, and how? What are the social and environmental implications of this? This section discusses: Primary energy The meaning of renewable and sustainable energy Technical considerations for energy generation Technologies for moving, storing  and using energy are discussed in their own sections. Primary energy All of CONTINUE READING