Professor Dame Julia King (Baroness Brown of Cambridge) DBE, FRS, FREng is an engineer, crossbench member of the House of Lords and Chair of The Carbon Trust.
Julia started her career in academia as a Rolls-Royce fellow at University of Cambridge and was involved in teaching and research for 16 years, before moving to business. Between 1994 and 2002 she held a number of managerial positions at Rolls-Royce. In 2002 she became the Chief Executive of the Institute of Physics. Between 2004 and 2006 Julia was the Principal of the Engineering Faculty at Imperial College London. After that, she was Vice-Chancellor of Aston University for a decade.
Julia has worked closely with the government on a number of climate, technology and education issues. She led the King Review of low-carbon cars (published in 2008) and sat on numerous government bodies, such as Climate Change Committee's Adaptation Sub-Committee of which she is the chair.
Julia was appointed a life peer in the House of Lords in 2015. In 1999 she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire and promoted to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2012.
Michael Liebreich: Before we start, if you're enjoying these conversations, please make sure that you like or subscribe to Cleaning Up, it really helps other people to find us. Cleaning Up is brought to you by the Liebreich Foundation and the Gilardini Foundation. Hello, I'm Michael Liebreich, and this is Cleaning Up. My guest today is Professor Dame Julia King, Baroness Brown of Cambridge. She's an engineer, she's a crossbench peer in the House of Lords, and she's also Chair of the Climate Change Committee. Please welcome Julia King to Cleaning Up. So, Julia, thank you for joining us here on Cleaning Up.
Julia King: Thank you for inviting me, Michael.
ML: It's a great pleasure to see you. Where abouts are you broadcasting from today?
JK: Well, I'm sitting in my study in Cambridge.
ML: And is that where you have been throughout these last 18 terrible months of the pandemic?
JK: Much of the time we've been here, but I've only just inherited the study or, or actually regained the territory because my husband has recently retired. So, I decided that I was allowed to move out in the TV room back into the study.
ML: Has he now occupied the TV room? Is that what he's doing?
JK: He's now occupied the TV room. But I get a better desk in here.
ML: And have you so we are hopefully now emerging from this pandemic, have you now started to take meetings in person and spend time in it well, in your sort of formal role at Cambridge?
JK: We've been back in the House of Lords now for a few weeks. Back in the chamber, until obviously, the party conference recess, which started what, a couple of weeks ago now. But of course, we've been back in the chamber for the report stage of the Environment Bill, which was a couple of weeks before recess started. And it's really nice to be back in the chamber, actually, because it's very hard to debate amendments online with very formal having to say you want to speak and being summoned, you know, amendments and debates need much more, need to be much more interactive, and much more immediate than that. So, it's been a great relief to be back at the back in the chamber at the Lords.
ML: And so that is the main focus of your activities now as your role as crossbench member of the House of Lords?
JK: I chaired the adaptation committee for the Climate Change Committee. So, we had a very busy summer, because we published the huge exercise, which is pulling together the evidence base for the third climate change risk assessment. So that's been coordinating over 200 academics and specialists and people from industry to produce that while the evidence base for how the climate is changing in the UK, and what the risks are. And then also publishing our advice to government, for them to take up as they prepare their formal climate change risk assessment, which is for the whole of the UK, which will be published next year. And then of course, we also had a progress report on how we're doing on adaptation in the UK, which is another formal requirement from the committee.
ML: Gosh, that sounds like a very busy summer. Now what I'd like to do, though, is to step back because you've got this great career in academia, then in business and in public service. And what you're talking about there is obviously you know, doubling down on the public service part of it. But if you can start so you, you were a when you graduate, you're a fracture mechanics global expert. I mean, that was what you did was fracture mechanics. Am I right?
JK: Yeah, I used to break things. It was great fun.
ML: And so my great mentor when I was at Cambridge was Professor Dai Jones at Christ's and he was great he wrote the textbook, did he not as of around the same time that you were probably working your way through the early stages of your academic career?
JK: No, Dai lectured to me when I was an undergraduate. And so and then he moved to the engineering department. And when he got together with Mike Ashby, and they produced those excellent 10 strokes on the materials in engineering structures and things yes, material selection, and Design
ML: Exactly Ashby and Jones, that was the textbook and so we have a very good we have in common so we will those lectured by Dai Jones. That’s fabulous. But you then so after a period in academia, you went to Rolls Royce. And you ran a number of their, the Rolls Royce Aero Engines, not the Rolls Royce cars piece and you run your own number of their programmes.
JK: Yeah, no, it was great to move from It was great to experience industry having been quite a long time in academia and built up a big research group, who were mostly looking at the kind of problems that you have, and materials that you need to develop for Aero Engines and those very high temperature, high stress kind of applications.
ML: But then in 2002 you went off to be the head of the Institute of Physics. So, you left the business world and then now you've got various involvements various directorships. But that was your that was your stint in business. What was your capacity at the time, what was thinking as in sort of frontline engineering business, but to get back into the more I don't know if you'd call it the academic, but the Institute of Physics sort of supporting academia and supporting industry, but more on the theoretical side.
JK: And I'd been in Rolls Royce for eight years, I'd done a whole range of jobs, I started running the materials labs, I then ran the new product development activity for the industrial businesses, as their Director of Advanced Engineering, then I then moved to running one of the manufacturing businesses. And I was engineering director for the marine business in Rolls Royce. And one, the job I really wanted was the mainboard, engineering director job at Rolls Royce. And when Colin Smith got that, and you know, he was a jolly good appointment, I'm not going to say, that wasn't the right thing to do. When I call him Smith got that the kind of choices for me, were going to be the other engineering director roles in the Rolls Royce businesses. So, I had to decide whether that was what I wanted to do, I should say, Colin Smith and I are almost exactly the same age. So, Colin wasn't suddenly going to retire and leave that job open again, whilst I was still at Rolls Royce. So, I had to decide that I wanted to move around the other engineering director roles at Rolls Royce, or whether I wanted to do something else. And my husband was working in London, I think, at the time, and we'd been all our careers, we ended up you know with two houses, oscillating between them. And so, I thought well, actually would be quite nice to go and work in London as well. So that happened, you know, that all happened, just happened to come up at the same time as Colin was moving. So, I decided yes, it would be interesting to have a change, but I really enjoyed working for Rolls Royce it was fantastically interesting. So, and given the choice again, I'd go and do it again.
ML: Now you would have been, I'm pretty sure no, you would have been the first head of engineering, the first woman as head of engineering at Rolls Royce, but then you went off Institute of Physics and then principal of the engineering department at Imperial so it's still pretty damn pioneering stuff, wasn't it?
JK: Um, yes, it was still I mean at Rolls Royce certainly there were very few senior women, there are very few senior women in engineering roles. I mean, Sue Lyons, who was who had been in the defense business when I was there and became I think, CEO of the or MD of the Rolls Royce defense business was an enormous support to me there but otherwise the women tended to be an HR and finance role. So at that time, it was it was very unusual. It Yes, it was, but it's something you got, I got used to through my career being you know, you know, the often the only woman in a room. So in a way, it didn't feel odd to me. But I think when I talked to the young women who had come in to Rolls Royce, graduates, I think they had a much harder time than I did. Because coming in in a senior role, you get a level of respect because of your, your seniority, and you get treated with a level of respect because your seniority, I think the you know, the 21 year olds who came in and joined some of the big engineering teams had a much tougher time than I did, and also couldn't necessarily see any women in next level management roles, couldn't see where, you know, who were their role models and how their careers might progress.
ML: Because it has slowly changed but it's still… we're still not anywhere near sort of 50/50 that you'd like to see on the on the on the gender split and I was taught another person who taught me actually was Professor Anne Dowling. But it was so rare at that time to have a woman professor of engineering. They were just they were I don't know, how many would have been in the country? But not that many, really.
JK: Yes, very few. I mean, I could count the number of women who taught me at Cambridge on, I'd only need a couple of fingers. Much less than a hand. Yes.
ML: And I think that wasn't different when I was there. So that takes us pretty much to the, I'm gonna say the famous review, this is the King Review of low carbon transportation 2008. And at that time, just my own journey, I was just I had started New Energy Finance, which was 2004. And I had done a lot of work on renewable energy, and the energy technologies, wind, solar, etc, that made me realize that you need a smart grid, because they're all variable all over the place. And then I had realized that you needed, you needed batteries, you needed storage, as well. And I was just about around 2008, reaching a point where I thought, okay, actually, batteries are gonna get really cheap. And this is going to change transportation. And so, I was just sort of there at that moment, and then your review appeared How did you get sort of select? or how did you get into doing that review?
JK: I don't know actually. By that time, I was Vice Chancellor of Aston University in Birmingham. And I got a call, as you do on some of these things about a week before the budget from Gordon Brown's office at the Treasury to say would I lead a review on to how to decarbonize transport. And it was at that time intended to be a kind of series of follow ups to the Stern Review, that Gordon Brown had this vision that you would take each sector of the economy, and you would do a review, looking at how you could decarbonize actually, in a way the sort of work that the Climate Change Committee now does, as it does its analysis. But you know, the kickoff for it. And I was asked, I presume, because I had an engineering background in aerospace. And to some extent in marine, but absolutely not in automotive. So I didn't have any connections with the car industry that would have made me a non-independent, if you like. And I got a call to say, would I do it? And of course, my chair of counsel at Aston was quite keen on the profile it would give to the university. And I thought it sounded fascinating. So, I jumped at the chance.
ML: Right, and for our viewers and listeners, Lord Stern, I had on Cleaning Up, I'm gonna say, it's, I don't know, exact episode numbers. I can't keep them all in my head. But it's something like Episode 45. So, if they go to the website and scroll down, then they'll see Lord Stern and his famous Stern review, which was 2006, I believe. So then you and you were working on this in 2007. And the whole thing, the final part of the report came out in 2008. And can you summarise I sort of refreshed myself on what he said, but can you summarise what it said in in the short version?
JK: What he said was, we can decarbonize transport, you know, we've got the potential for biofuels, which I think we thought at that time, might have a much stronger role in transport than we then we see now, we said, there's an enormous amount we can do with conventional internal combustion engines in the interim, of having new technologies to dramatically reduce the emissions. We looked at batteries, and they clearly looked important, they had an important role. And we looked at hydrogen, which seemed to play a minimal role, but potentially, for long distance vehicles and, and heavy transport. And I think what has changed since then, would be I think, in a big way would be our, our view of what we might do with biofuels. And now, you know, and realizing now, how enormously precious any bioenergy will be, and we really would need to use it with carbon capture and storage in order to try and generate net negative emissions in order to get to net zero. So really, it was a very positive message to say, you know, we can do this and initially to say, these are the sorts of policy measures we need. We had a huge number of policy recommendations, the initial ones were all about setting really tough targets for the emissions, the emissions per kilometer, or the emissions per mile from new car sales, to start bringing the emissions down immediately because we knew, having talked to a lot of the industry, that, you know, the industry had the technology on the shelf, essentially, to bring emissions from conventional vehicles really weighed down. And we did start to see that. And disappointingly, we started to, we started to see that in part, because we also had the fuel duty escalator at that time. And the fuel duty escalator was really pushing up the price of petrol and diesel every year quite significantly. And we did initially see the UK public, starting to buy much, much more efficient and smaller new cars. And then actually, when the escalator came off, and fuel became a smaller issue for people, what we saw people as people taking the benefit of these much lower emissions and more efficient vehicles, by keeping essentially the cost of their cost of fuel roughly the same. But that was then enabling them to start buying bigger cars again. And so emissions from cars did come down a bit in the 2008-2009-2010. And then they started creeping up again, because people were moving to these more efficient but larger vehicles again,
ML: Okay, there's a lot of a lot to unpack there. Just some information for those who are, you know, watching or listening on the fuel duty escalator. That was the process whereby duty on transport fuels for the general public, not so much for farmers and haulage and so on that would go up by I don't remember, was it a percent per year or so there was some fixed amount it was supposed, percent? I can't remember.
ML: My understanding, I remember it was something like that it was significant.
JK: It was significant, yeah.
ML: It made a difference. And then of course, there was an enormous pushback, I think around the time when the oil prices surged. So, when you got to around 2008, I mean, actually must have been shortly after your report. And this fuel prices surged, they went to $140 per, per barrel. And then you have the truckers out, and the general public out and they were blocking motorways and it was then removed and as you say, then, of course, the pressure to become more efficient, receded. But I’ve got to challenge you on one thing, when you say that things got more efficient and people were by what they also were doing. This was right. This was the time when Gordon Brown was pushing people to buy diesels because diesels were more efficient. And so, everybody bought diesels and I ended up on the board of Transport for London in 2012, with the most appalling air quality problems in London caused by Gordon Brown's diesels.
JK: I think the worst <inaudible>problems caused by diesels. But actually, the new diesels people were buying were pretty clean, and they've got cleaner ever since. So I think the fire that has been directed towards diesels has not been entirely fair towards new diesels has not been entirely fair, I think old diesels and some of the diesel buses, you know, lots of particulates. I mean, you used to be able to see it pouring out of the back of them. So yes, diesels have been a real problem, and it will be great when we move away from them completely. But I do think it was one of those things that we find a bogeyman and then we direct all our fire towards him or her.
JK: Yeah, I mean, the issue, you're right on the part on the particulates for sure. You know, when I say I got on the Board, and we had this huge problem, it was actually the nitrous oxides. It wasn't the particulates. But of course it was it was the NOx that were bad. And of course, you then had diesel gate because what the car companies decided to do was instead of actually meet these, you know, ever more stringent requirements, they actually just filled it. And I mean, even now, we've still got a difference between the tests that are used in the lab, we're still getting, you know, using lab tests and not real life, I think what we should be doing is getting the telematics data straight off the cars, you know how much fuel goes in, and you know, how many miles or kilometers they drive. And that should be the data set that goes into all of the policy instruments rather than some self-reporting or some theoretical numbers on this cycle, that cycle and the other.
JK: Absolutely agree with you. And that's one of the things we've said on the Climate Change Committee historically, that we need real data on these things. And of course, we have a hidden problem of exactly what I would say, exactly the same sort in new homes, which is that the standards to which new homes are built, have to be demonstrated once on one house of that particular design in one place, and then no other house is tested. So, people are buying homes that they're told are energy efficient. And actually, nobody has a clue whether those homes are energy efficient or not. And in fact, in general, they went any testing is done, they're found to be far less energy efficient than they're supposed to be. And it's kind of hidden diesel gate scandal to me, people are therefore paying too much in terms of gas and electricity bills. And of course, emitting far more in terms of CO2 emissions than actually houses really built to that standard should do.
ML: Well, absolutely, I mean, now touching on a topic that I've spent quite a bit of time on, or, you know, on the side of everything else I do, which is around just the settings of heating systems in this country, because since 2005, we've had a law that boilers have to be condensing boilers. So the temperature at which you get the return water has to be sufficiently low, so that the water and I don't need to tell you this, I'm doing this for the audience and for the viewers so that the water vapor in the gas they get the exhaust gases condenses and gives up its heat. So, we've had this law for 16 years that that's the only sort of boiler you're allowed to put into a home. But the vast majority of them are set at too high temperature and they don't condense. So, we're wasting probably 20% of the all of the heating or 20, or 30% of all the gas that goes into home heating is simply wasted. It's as much as that.
JK: And we're now having a we're now about to have a similar set of problems. Because we haven't done the training and we haven't got the capable people with heat pumps, we've just had a heat pump installed. About probably about a year ago now. First of all, it took a week to install it, they've had to become back twice, because the settings weren't correct. And, and actually, I mean, it's now working perfectly well and so on at the moment, and it keeps us perfectly warm. But I have a very strong suspicion that it hasn't been properly set up for the, for the house and the heating system that we've got. And I suspect we're using far more electricity than we should be. But you know, it works and, and we're lucky enough to be in position that that's not a huge part of our costs. So, we don't really notice. But as we spread heat pumps out across the country, we have got to get the skill levels up and our understanding of how you make the right assessments and get the system set properly. And more even more importantly, we actually need far more people who can advise on whole house system. So how do you integrate the heat pump the with the storage in your car battery? With the potential you may or may not have some solar panels on your roof? You know, how do we kind of optimize a whole house system for people so that they can really run their homes in a green way, but actually at the lowest cost as well.
ML: Absolutely. And I listen to a podcast, there's a chap called Nathan Gambling. And what he does is a podcast called Beta Teach. And on that podcast, he brings in these brilliant whole-house engineers, and they have a sort of they have a you know a whole session complaining about this or that or suggesting or explaining. And it is all about the house as a system. And of course, what we what we're doing the risk with heat pumps is that just as it was with condensing boilers, or anything else, is that the policy is going to be fit one of these. And so, we will tick the boxes and fit them all. But actually, so if we did this in transportation, if your review had said, the solution to this is every vehicle must have a turbocharger and then we could have fitted all these turbo charges. And so we've done our job. And of course, that's not the way to optimize a vehicle any more than putting in a heat pump or any other single piece of kit is to optimize a home or a building of any sort. So, we were I think we're sort of furiously agreeing that this is the problem.
JK: And when you say that, condensing boiler problem is about to be reproduced again and again and again. And we really in my view, we’re really not getting to grips with the skills issue or is the and as you say, with being able to advise people on a systems basis, and unfortunately, our conventional, you know, plumbers people you call when your boiler goes wrong. I used to installing one piece of kit. They're not actually they don't usually do very much in the way of doing whole house assessments and things. And we've got to bring together those skills, because otherwise we're going to be using far more energy and needing to build far too much far too many new nuclear stations or new turbines or whatever it is, you know, is going to provide it then we actually need, it's not going to be a cost or resource effective way of delivering net zero.
ML: Condensing boiler problem is the same as a heat pump problem, because if the engineer could set the return temperature or the flow temperature, so it is going to condense, then that will also tell you whether you can run the water at that temperature so that you could just swap that out for a heat pump. So if you reduce the temperature, and then you really are honestly cold, and that's the house, you do need to replace the radiators, or some of them. So it's the same it is actually the same problem. Now the question is okay, you know, you and I have enough engineering education between us, but we're, you know, so far we've been unable to educate the policy environment to do this stuff right. And to think about the skills and the the, you know, the programmatic approaches to get this right. So they're still out there looking for silver bullets, aren't they?
ML: Um, yes, I suppose they're looking for a lot of silver bullets there. They're not just looking for the one. But it is this lack of a systems approach, which in part comes from the way we compartmentalize government, actually, I mean, we've got you know, we've got lots of things to do with housing, and building standards in the Ministry of housing Communities and Local Government. And then we've got the heat and building strategy, which is going to be coming out of BEIS, the Department of Business energy and industrial strategy, or whatever it's, it's now called,
ML: My theory is it should now be called BE, because we don't have an industrial strategy. We got that for the last, you know, so we got rid of that bit, but it's not they haven't renamed the department. Yeah. And of course, we do have an industrial strategy. It's really called net zero, frankly.
JK: So you know, we really do need to bring together thinking in government, and you need also to bring that together with the way people think about how we support low income families and things, because you've got to make sure the way you know that the incentives they get, don't disincentivize them to do the right kinds of things, or even in some cases, prevent them from doing the right kinds of things.
ML: Well, exactly, because you will also have to have that expertise in the Treasury. And I'll tell you, I got to know a while ago, somebody who was the energy adviser to the treasurer, I'm not going to say which Treasurer or which advisor because it would be embarrassing. And I was pushed forward as oh, you need to talk to Michael about all this low carbon stuff from what you can do and how much it will cost. And I had a great conversation. And then so much so that he then reached out and asked for a second conversation, in the middle of which so we're now an hour and a half or an hour and 45 minutes into the conversation about specifically how we get, you know, the UK onto low carbon and heating as being the big challenge. And he stopped me, and he said, Michael, I'm going to ask you, could you just tell me, what is a heat pump. And this is the energy advisor to the chancellor. So, we got a long way to go to get a sort of broad front of education and government and understanding what the, you know, what we need to do?
JK: Absolutely. You know, I was pleased to hear that, that the Treasury are now thinking that we need to be moving some of the costs of the costs of decarbonizing the energy system from electricity to gas. I think that is the right thing to do. Clearly, it's not gone down well, with the Daily Telegraph and one or two other newspapers. But you've got to think about how you put a policy in like that in place very carefully, of course, look at the implications for, particularly for those in fuel poverty. But looking at the implications for those who feel poverty shouldn't stop us from doing the right things, which essentially moves the carbon price onto the carbon and off what is rapidly becoming a very low carbon electricity system, because actually, what we exactly what we need to do is to persuade people to think about going for the electric option in the future.
ML: Yes, it does feel to me also, like the only way that's going to solve the problem of the pushback from the you know, you can call it the Telegraph. It's really the Global Warming Policy Foundation crowd. The only thing that's going to stop that pushback or do you defang it is going to be a carbon fee and dividend when that low income household is getting a check for 200,300,400 or 500 pounds a year. You know, which will help insulate them from those increased costs. And everybody will get you know the way they've got in Canada to you pay your carbon fees based on what you use. And of course, it's all the wealthier people are actually using a lot more bigger house. There's more cars, etc. And then we rebate it on a per capita basis. So that would then be a progressive approach. I think that's the only way really to defuse that that energy poverty conversation.
JK: And some of that funding goes into making sure they have a home with the appropriate insulation and ventilation so that they use much less energy.
ML: Well, that's right, absolutely. And of course, we've got the exact opposite direction where we've got rid of, we've got gotten rid of the, the need to insulate homes, particularly homes for low income people. And then what we're doing instead is paying winter fuel allowances, which pays people to to use more fossil fuels mostly. So, we've got a lot of work to do. Definitely.
JK: Yeah, but now and it really is that that linking of government so that they think as a system, and they're looking at all of their, yeah, doing something here and how it affects something over there in somebody else's department.
ML: So this is fabulous, because we got quite far into this. And you've only used the word hydrogen once very briefly, when you were talking about vehicles. And obviously hydrogen is now the topic of the day. And it's in the front lines we have, I think that there's a fairly good understanding now that hydrogen for you know, people's personal transportation is not really a thing, you still got a big discussion going on about longer distance, although David Cebon at Cambridge, is doing good work on catenary charging, so in-motion charging. But then there's this enormous lobbying activity around hydrogen for heating. So where are you in the hydrogen wars? Which team have you chosen?
JK: Well, I think hydrogen is going to be very important for us, when you look at the difference, you know, in the work we've done on the Climate Change Committee, the difference between the 80% target, and the 100%, target the net zero target, which we've now got the difference in almost every sector, and the key sectors have been, have been some hard to decarbonize parts of industry, shipping, aviation, some parts of heavy transport. If you look at what can offer a solution in all of those sectors, then you find hydrogen becomes part of the story. And so, we didn't need hydrogen to get to an 80% reduction. We do need hydrogen to get to 100%. It's not yet clear exactly where we need it. But I think the Climate Change Committee, our work suggests that we need an energy system where about 20% of our energy might come from hydrogen in 2050, that lines up pretty closely with McKinsey's assessment of about 18% globally by 2050. I think it's very clear of some of the areas in industry, you know, things like steelmaking, where hydrogen could be enormously beneficial. I think it's very clear that shipping is moving potentially towards electric for some small vessels, but probably ammonia for larger ships and tankers and military vessels. We're going to need hydrogen for to make synthetic aviation fuels, we're going to need green hydrogen to do that. We've got Airbus announcing that by 2030, they'll have a liquid hydrogen powered narrow body aircraft. So, it looks as if aviation is looking to hydrogen. I think, as you say, the big question marks are, how much hydrogen Do we need and heavy transport? And you know, David Cebon will absolutely correctly tell you that if we could do it with electricity, it's more efficient. And he's absolutely right, I suppose I, I have a concern that I can't actually see us getting round to getting catenaries put in place on all of the motorways in the UK by 2050. Because look how slow, we are being at putting in at electrifying our rail system. So, I just think there's a practical challenge there. And also, we're starting to see some really interesting work, I think, for some heavy applications, looking at how efficiently can we run a modified diesel, you know, specifically designed diesel engine on hydrogen. And that starts to look as if that might be in some applications, quite a cost competitive way of dealing with this, I think we will see some hydrogen in road transport. But I'm absolutely with David that if we could do it with electricity. It is a more efficient use of energy.
ML: So on the on the hydrogen for in a modified diesel engine. I had great privilege of going up to your Uttoxeter and seeing what JCB are doing and yeah, I've… Those who are those who are listening on podcast can't see what I'm doing. If I remove this book from behind me, then you'll actually see a little green JCB, which has been, which is running a diesel, a modified diesel engine.
JK: I’ve also…
ML That is that is so much so much in common. It's quite scary there. And that's very interesting because I see that as definitely working in off road applications. And if you're in a forest if you're on a mine
JK: Yeah, yeah, but it might also work in rubbish collection trucks or something like that.
ML: And there we would disagree on that because a rubbish truck, how many miles does it do 30 or 40 miles? And yes, it needs to do some crushing. So, it needs a bit more energy than a normal truck. But it is so easy to plug that thing in its use cycle. It's so unbelievably easy. Why would you do something really complicated, that requires, you know, a more complicated vehicle and an entirely new, this is not just extending the electrical grid, which is basically we've been doing that for over 100 years. And so I see that as being one of the use case, that's it. So going, going electric, and that will be job done. And I don't see much chance there. I think for the heavy,
JK: The jury's still out for me, from what I've seen, it's really an analysis on a case-by-case basis that you have to do. And you need to get right down to the detail to look at what actually works in which situation. So, I would agree with you that I think hydrogen has a niche role in transport. I don't I wouldn't I haven't seen the analysis. That would tell me which niches and I think we're seeing some new developments, you know, which look interesting, but I would be with you that if you can use a battery, you'd use a battery. Yeah, absolutely with you on that.
ML: On the long distance, I think that the there's also a path dependency, how does the system evolve? Because even heavy vehicles, if they're only driving 100, 130 miles, 150 miles a day. So, the sorts of trucks that do deliveries, you know, around supermarkets, you know, they go from a depo, outside, you know, outside, whichever, you know, Birmingham, Manchester or London, wherever, and then they drop off at supermarkets, they don't drive very far. And what happens is, it's actually relatively easy to electrify those trucks, because you take out the engine, you take out the gearbox, you take out the transmission, you take out the fuel you take, so you actually save a lot of weight, and then you add in a battery weight for weight, it doesn't change very much, and you just have this simple vehicle, no, you know, air pollution. And once you've got those vehicles in all of your urban centres, you know, you don't have to put catenaries on every road. And you there's only a few routes that are sufficiently long in this country, not to be able to serve them with a purely electric truck. So, I mean, obviously I haven't, you know, I agree there's a lot of analysis, but I'm just not, I'm not seeing more than 10 or 15% of trucks really needing to drive these very long distances that would require you know, stopping and charging and all that complication.
JK: The jury's out for me, I hear what you say, I'm not entirely convinced that we'll get around to electrifying all of this. And I also worry enormously about the impact of an enormous amount of fast charging on our electricity system, our electricity system is going to have to have a huge amount of investment for the for the changes ahead. And some of the kind of, you know, the Tesla ultra-fast charging, when you're doing quite a lot of that at a heavy vehicle scale. I think that could be extremely challenging, and very expensive to get the infrastructure in place for that. I also see some, some really brilliant developments. In terms of materials for storing hydrogen. I mean, we saw a few years ago winner of the Shell springboard award, somebody produced a nanostructured polystyrene related material. And nanostructured particle not a nanoparticle, just a nanostructured micron scale particle, which absorbed hydrogen really effectively, and would release the hydrogen when heated to about 80 degrees centigrade, you could pour those granules into a tank and pour them out again and heat them to 100 release. There are now a whole range of materials and solutions of that type being developed. So, I think that could be something quite game changing could come along and catch us on the on the on the handling hydrogen in a vehicle in that area, which would make hydrogen a very, very much easier thing to use now, it's still going to be relatively expensive to make. So, you're still not going to want to use it where you can easily use a battery. But I do think there could still be some competition, that that that heavy or very large battery end of the scale.
ML: No, no, look, I'm, I always love being proven wrong. I like taking very firm positions, but I also love being proven wrong.
JK: Let's get back together in 2050.
ML: I would absolutely.. we’ll have you back on in 2050. But what about hydrogen for heating? Because the Climate Change Committee has come out fairly strongly against use of hydrogen and heating. The government's hydrogen strategy here in the UK has sort of said, well, we'll do 67,000 homes, which is essentially very few because we got 22-23 million homes between now and 2030. But they've sort of signaled that they want to do later. But the Climate Change Committee says no.
JK: Well, I think on the Climate Change Committee, we thought 11% of buildings might be heated with hydrogen. And I spent I think there's, you know, there'd be a question about if those 11% were spread thinly all around the country, you'd probably never get a business case for getting the hydrogen to them. So I think that the you know, they might be some options for clusters around places where hydrogen was going to be produced. So maybe around <inaudible> Grimsby, where you've got the industrial clusters, and you've got , the offshore wind, and the power coming onshore from a lot of that offshore wind. So there might be areas like that where it was seemed appropriate to, to heat homes with hydrogen, but the analysis says if you can, again, I mean, it's a bit like your argument for vehicles, it's if you can do it with a heat pump, it is much the most cost effective way. But of course, it does mean you've got to be able to insulate the buildings. And we have you know, we have some of the oldest building stock in Europe, we have some of the least well insulated, building stock. And of course, we're very addicted to our Victorian terraces. And of course, other grander forms of historic homes, some of which can be really challenging to bring up to the standards, where a heat pump can be really effective and, and give people the quality of comfort that they expect and indeed that they need in their homes. So I think that's still a really difficult one. I do see a must I do see though, as we're trying to develop a hydrogen industry, I do see the opportunity of putting up to 20% hydrogen in the gas grid, as a way of using the hydrogen that's going to be produced it's going to be really difficult to balance, the production and the use as a starting point. So as an intermediate decarbonizing our gas grid by adding some hydrogen to it to reduce our emissions, I see as a useful mechanism for getting a hydrogen industry started certainly gosh
ML: I'm a bit surprised to hear you say that because I think blended blending for me I've racked my brains for any reason why you would do blending and I can't really see one because the 20% you talk about actually gives you a 6% or 7% reduction in emissions but actually all you then do with it is generate either generate electricity, which means it's a round trip or use it in heating where it's so much less efficient than…
JK: The only reason why I would do it was because we've got to get a hydrogen industry up and running quickly. And therefore you've got an up you've always got some way to put it right if you need it. So I wouldn't be saying we want to put 20% in I'd be saying we've got some way to put it if we haven't got the hydrogen trains or the you know, shipping hasn't advanced as fast as we thought it was going to and we don't yet need the ammonia whatever the situation is
ML: Right. But we have somewhere to put it right now in vast quantities, which is fertilizer and refineries. And so until we've even replaced because that's currently 2% of global emissions is grey hydrogen used in those two use cases and we do it in this country. And so those are an…
JK: No, I agree that that would be the 27 terawatt hours of hydrogen that we currently use which is predominantly grey hydrogen. Yeah because the very first…
ML: My worry is that the reason that the lobbyists not focusing on you know we should do that is because that requires very low-cost hydrogen at the moment is going to compete with you know, this great hydrogen which costing I don't know, a pound a kilo or something like that. And they know they can't get there not with blue not with, not with green. So not with hydrogen from fossil fuels with capture or not with hydrogen from renewables, and not with pink hydrogen from nuclear, which also I think is very interesting.
JK: Why is hydrogen from nuclear called pink?
ML: I have no idea I only use these terms. I don't invent them. But I'm fine with that. I mean, I used to ski in, you know, in pink when I was in my competitive skiing days.
JK: I’ve nothing against this hydrogen being called pink. I just wondered, who decided that, who and why did somebody decide that hydrogen from nuclear was called pink?
ML: It may have been the sort of the, you know the PR agency for the nuclear industry, or let's make it all seem covenanter that Chernobyl was bad, Fukushima was bad. Let's be pink, let's be friendly. I don't know. But that's colour scheme that people use, I believe it's also used for geothermal hydrogen, which I believe is also potentially very interesting. And so I'm an adviser to a geothermal business, doing closed loop geothermal, which also could produce hydrogen. But it's not going to get to the low, low enough cost without some form of support to displace the grey hydrogen that we use. And of course, the problem for the Chancellor is if you start saying, well, we really want to decarbonize 2% of our emissions through which is currently grey hydrogen, the sums just become vast, they very quickly get into the hundreds of millions of pounds a year or even the billions, globally, definitely into the billions. And, and we simply don't seem to be doing that.
JK: Chancellors need to get more interested in carbon taxes
ML: Possibly, and then also perhaps in in sort of real hydrogen, hydrogen economics as well. Right, so heating now, but let me just come back to one other thing, one other wrinkle on the heating is what it Where are you on blue hydrogen, because if you're going to take, let's say, the offshore electricity, and you're going to then use it to for heating either directly those 11% that you talked about or via blending into gas, which then a big proportion goes into heating. That's, that's, that's a lot more turbines than you need. And it's six times as many turbines than you need. And the natural next step in that argument is but not if you're using blue hydrogen, not a few are decarbonizing natural gas and getting your hydrogen that way, do you see a future for blue hydrogen?
JK: I actually think that the government's hydrogen strategy allowing for, you know, blue and green rather than the rather more extreme move to green that we're seeing from Germany, for example, is really sensible. Because if you went all blue, you end up on our analysis, the Climate Change Committee, you end up importing vastly more gas than we do today, which doesn't do anything for energy security. But if you try and try and drive it all to green, then as you say, you end up building, we're already looking at 100 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2050, you end up needing 200 or 300 gigawatts of offshore wind. And that becomes really well unlikely and potentially rather alarming. So, a combination of the two seems a good way forward. But it does rely on really driving the capture levels of carbon from the blue hydrogen, up to the 99 plus percent. And you also including, of course, the methane emissions in the process of producing the gas. So we really have got to have a mechanism, which as we support hydrogen production, really drives blue hydrogen produces to the very, very highest capture rates, because if you get to 2050, and you're producing a lot of blue hydrogen, only 95% capture rates or even worse than that, then actually your challenge of the emissions you need to offset by 2050 becomes very, very much bigger. I mean, we all have that analysis form part of the sixth carbon budget and the net zero work. But you know, you've got to drive blue to the very highest capture rates, and you need green as well. I think those two, I think they work together effectively, if we can if we can get…
ML: So there's just been this recent report by Professor Jacobson in Stanford and Howarth in Cornell saying that blue hydrogen can be worse than burning coal worse and than burning gas, in that case.
JK: I think there's been a lot of analysis of that, which demonstrates that he took the worst case he's got examples of 50% capture rates. I mean, there's no way we would be accepting 50% capture rates in this country. So, I think that's a bit of a red herring, to be honest, that analysis, I'm quite shocked that it should come out of a place of such distinction, I have to say.
ML: Yeah, well, and I was I've been very vocal because it does a sensitivity analysis, but it excludes all of the approaches that you would actually use if you and you know, there are projects in development, that quite clearly will achieve levels of either fugitive methane emissions or capture that are simply not covered in the sensitivity it's so-called sensitivity analysis. So, I find that an incredibly unhelpful contribution to the discussion to be quite honest.
JK: I felt it was unhelpful, but I suppose I did wonder whether, well, you know, I'm not in the United States. You know, are there indeed people in the US who are trying to push, you know, carbon capture these extraordinarily low capture rates as being acceptable? Because it clearly isn't.
ML: No, I don't think there's that I think that there is there is a discussion, there's, look, there's an education process to which in a sense, that report for all its manifest flaws did contribute, which is the fugitive emissions, that are absolutely appalling are three and a half percent fugitive emissions, which is a lot of which is driven by historic wells, orphan wells that have never been capped, or legislative frameworks were in, like in Saskatchewan, you're allowed to just vent methane, not even flare it, but just vent it. And so there's a lot of bad things. But to place that at the door of blue hydrogen was the thing, that's the problem, those things have to be cleaned up. And so shining a light on those. And they absolutely have to be cleaned up. And we absolutely know how to do that, if society so decides, I think there are people saying, well, you know, you should do blue, blue hydrogen, if it's better than, than grey hydrogen, which, you know, you could make that argument if you're retrofitting an existing grey hydrogen plant, you might say, well, even if you can only absorb 60%, it's better than zero for some interim, but as you say, you get closer to 2050 and net zero, that won't be good enough, will it?
JK: No, it absolutely won't. And that's why I'd really like to see, I'd really like to see a really good look at how do we develop hydrogen standards that take into account not only are they blue, or green, or pink or whatever, but actually take into account, what are the gradations within, you know, within those within those colors, so to speak? And really do incentivize getting absolutely to the best because that's where we need to be.
ML: Or without those colours, just so it doesn't matter here is the standard and you can hit it doesn't matter where it doesn't matter. Yeah, I think so WBCSD, which is where Claire O'Neill, formerly Claire Perry, the Minister of Energy and Climate Change, has ended up, heading up their energy and climate programmes, they are working on exactly those sorts of standards, as are a number of other players. And they've been, you know, reasonably involved. And no doubt we'll get more involved in those discussions around COP 26. Now we are not quite running out of time, but we're getting that way. You seem to be spending most of your time on climate and climate related issues ever since that 2008 report. So you've got directorships and you've got a wind, Orsted, wind company got Ceres, which is the fuel cell company, which presumably will be used to convert some of this hydrogen into back into electricity, or I suppose it could also do natural gas. But your career… Definitely you've gone from not apparently being that involved in climate issues to being absolutely at the heart of it with your role on the Climate Change Committee and adaptation subcommittee and so on. Was that how much intentionality was there?
JK: Gosh, I have always been interested in climate change and environment issues. And at Rolls Royce. Certainly, when I was in the aerospace group running in the materials labs, you know, our key drivers were how do we reduce or how do we reduce fuel consumption and emissions, but not in quite the, you know, in quite the same climate context as, of course we are, we aren't doing it now. So, it's always been an interest, but I suppose it was doing the King review for Gordon Brown, and the Treasury that really, really highlighted for me that I needed to pay much, much more attention to this. And this was a really big problem, but also that it was a soluble one.
ML: And, and I think net for me, certainly net zero is a real game changer because at 80%, you can say, well, we could just become more efficient. And everybody who doesn't really want to engage can say, well, you're going to need me and I'm going to be in the 20%. But net zero really is different, is it not?
JK: That's right, everybody is now facing the same challenge. There's, as you say, nobody's let off the hook anymore.
ML: And to what extent was that a game changer within the deliberations? I'd love to know about the behind-the-scenes deliberations on the climate change committee.
JK: I suppose it is a change of, you know, you can't leave anything to one side Exactly. As you say, you've really got to bring everything into the mix. And you've then got to say, How on earth are we going to decarbonize all of this. And you do I mean, it is it is where hydrogen suddenly becomes part of the picture. But I think we do need to remember that 80% of our energy system won't be hydrogen, that we might be talking about 20% that will be so the biggest bit is still the, this the doubling, or slightly more than doubling in size of our electricity system, to deliver essentially the rest of the energy that we need, that we need to live in the UK. And we mustn't lose focus on that, by getting distracted by this exciting new set of technologies that plays an important but modest role.
ML: There's definitely a risk of chasing the shiny thing.
JK: Absolutely chasing the shiny thing. Yes.
ML: Was there a sense amongst the members of that Committee that, you know, when when Theresa May, as PM said, right, we're gonna go for net zero? Was there a sense of, you know, oh, my goodness, how on earth do we come up with a plan for that? Or was there a sense of yes, finally.
JK: Yes, it was definitely a, yes, finally, everybody was very fired up for, for doing it. And I think the most exciting thing, really, as we were doing, it was recognizing the impacts of those of the developments in technologies that you've been hinting at with the batteries, looking at the impacts of the cost reduction in, in batteries, particularly batteries, everything, but in solar, but in offshore wind in the onshore wind as well. And realizing that actually, we could now get to net zero, probably for less cost than we thought back in 2008 it was going to cost us to get to an 80% reduction. And that was actually really exciting.
ML: Yes, absolutely. When I for me, that was the big takeaway was that things have progressed so fast that the cost of net zero in 2050, was cheaper than the planned cost for 80% in presumably 2015, when that was last really costed out.
JK: And that's not taking into account the costs of the climate impacts, of course, that we need to avoid, or taking into account, you know, the potential driver on our economy, that, that all of these green industries and new green jobs could actually deliver. And people have, you know, actually, Oxford and other places have done a number of analyses, which suggests we could actually be seeing an increase in GDP if we do the kind of investments we need to get to net zero by 2050.
ML: I think that's almost certainly right. Because we'll be jumpstarted we’ll bringing forward investment to do these things. And the other thing is that as a, an advisor to the Board of Trade, I can tell you that, you know, we picked over what information there is on what this could do in terms of driving export industries in the UK. And it's certainly that's an that's another piece that another driver towards progressing more quickly, rather than more slowly. And finally, we are a few weeks away from COP 26. Will you be attending?
JK: I'm going to be there for the second week. Yes.
ML: And what will you be hoping to see or to do while you're up there?
JK: Well, I should be there actually, with my adaptation hat on. And one of the things that now one of the messages that we've been trying to really get across from the climate change committee is that net zero doesn't solve the problem. Net Zero is essential. It's hugely important. But we need to recognize that the climate goes on changing to 2050 at least, and probably some way beyond that, sadly. And the last 10 years have been the hottest 10 years on record. I bet almost anybody that the next 10 years will be the hottest 10 years on record. The next 10 years will be the next 10 years. So, until 2050 every decade is going to be the hottest 10 years on record. We've got to make sure that the world the UK and the world are capable of dealing with that, that's going to be a pretty tough in the UK and Europe, as we've seen from terrible flooding in, in in Germany. But it's going to be really tough for some of the, the low- and middle-income countries. And apart from everybody signing up to the net zero and really tough NDCs, I really do want to see movement on the funds to support the developing world, in order to both open both to jump over all of the technologies that are causing us such problems, but also make sure that they are adapted. And they will be they have, they will be relatively safe in the in the changed climate that we've got coming. Because otherwise we are going to see some real crises, and indeed, some real migration crises, amongst other things. If we don't, if the developed world really doesn't get behind, providing the funding to help those countries to change.
ML: Well, not only could I not have said any of that better, I don't know if there's anybody in the world who could have said any of that better. I will be up at COP 26 I've actually got a venue just outside Glasgow, and we'll be hosting a number of conversations and discussions. And so, you know, once we're off air perhaps we can swap notes, and maybe we'll try and bring you in to talk to some of the folks that I'm assembling, see if we can help to pursue that agenda. But other than that, I would like to say thank you very much, Julia, it's been a great pleasure. talking with you, as you say, we've got to certainly get you back definitely before 2050. To see who was right on some of those questions about the use cases for hydrogen. It's always a great pleasure talking with you.
JK: Great to talk to you, Michael. And I shall be fascinated to buy you a drink in 2050. If we haven't got any hydrogen in heavy transport.
ML: Okay, but we should we should structure this properly, because I would I would buy anybody a drink. If we've got more than 10% hydrogen in the economy. And we'd have to kind of put the right framing around it. Do we do we mean… Do we mean end use? Do we mean final energy, primary? Why don't we know exactly what do we mean. But I think that we're going to find it much easier. And we haven't talked, we didn't get to spend enough time talking about this precious resource of the bio-based energy and how we could be using that because in many cases, that is going to end up being much easier. You talked about efuels in, in aviation, and it was a sort of throwaway remark. But I suspect that's going to prove very, very expensive, maybe for aviation, but efuels, anywhere else I'm very skeptical about.
JK: I must admit, I was really, really surprised. I'm, I'm acting as climate advisor to the jet zero. No, the fly zero council. And I was very surprised by how hard aviation is pushing on hydrogen. I was really shocked. And of course, as you're right, it's the cost of efuels. Why on earth would you why on earth would they be looking at hydrogen in a way? It’s a big challenge,
ML: but it's not a big challenge. I mean, I've looked at this a little bit and you have the Airbus, you mentioned actually, earlier, you said that they're looking at doing narrow body with hydrogen and liquid hydrogen, okay, fine. You've got I mean, how you keep liquid how you keep hydrogen liquid on an aeroplane. And liquid hydrogen is still three times as bulky as jet fuel, kerosene.. So where are you going to put it? Yeah, well, I think it's probably a non starter and yet you have Airbus
JK: I was amazed that they were looking at hydrogen. And it's, you know, and the amounts driving that is, as you were saying, is the cost of efuels.
ML: Right. But if you can't do hydrogen, and you can't do efuels, then that leaves you to other places to go. One is don't fly and that certainly we need to put proper taxation on aviation and so on, so that we will fly, you know, where we have to, but not where we just, you know, fancy, you know, shopping weekend in New York or whatever. And the other thing is bio, you know, and I think that what we need to be doing is making sure that what limited bio resources we have, are used for the things like flying that are really, really difficult to do any other way.
JK: Well, you will, I am sure have noticed that the, the Climate Change Committee didn't really think that we would be using either hydrogen or efuels for aviation by 2050. It thought that that would be one of the areas where we'd be needing to do offsetting. And we needed to limit growth.
ML: I missed out offsets, you know, we could, we could open this up and do another 45 minutes. I really think we mustn't though because our audience, we will lose our viewers and our listeners. But as I say, it is just such a magnificent pleasure talking to you, and I hope to see you up in Glasgow.
JK: Well, I'll look out for you, Michael. So good to chat. And thank you very much.
ML: So that was Julia King, Baroness Brown of Cambridge. Crossbench peer in the House of Lords and also Chair of the UK Climate Change Committee. My guest next week is Glen Peters, research director at the Cicero Centre for International Research on Climate Change in Oslo, and also one of the world's great experts in the past, present, and future trends in admissions. Please join me this time next week for a conversation with Glen Peters.