Cutting through the confusion about renewable energy

Sustainable Energy: without the hot air by David Mackay is an easy to understand break down of all the possibilities for the UK to move into a low-carbon future.

The entire book is available to read online fo free, with a helpful 10-page synopsis which outlines his main conclusions.

The idea governing this book is to form an energy strategy that 'adds up'. This means not using adjectives to describe the UK's renewable energy potential as 'huge', dealing with figures that can be compared to actual consumption.

We would need country-sixed renewable schemes (literally meaning off-shore wind farms twice the size of Wales) to provide energy for our current level of consumption, he tells us. He then goes on to outline 5 possible ways to meet our energy demands in future, using different combinations of potential sources of energy (some including, some excluding nuclear, for example).

He deals with nuclear energy and the possibilities of using renewable energy from other countries (eg. solar from Spain), making all figures in the book easily understandable by using a unit per person per day for everything (kWh/d per person).

The synopsis is a great overview, with a few great facts, such as:

   The amount of energy saved by turning off your phone charger for a day, is "exactly the same as the energy used by driving an average car for one second"

   Most prototpye hydrogen-powered vehicles use more energy than the fossil fuel powered ones they replace, whereas electric cars use ten times less.

   Roof-mounted wind turbines are "an utter waste of resources", but another micro-generation technology, solar water heaters are "a no-brainer".

   Turning the thermostat down is the most effective way most people can reduce their energy consumption, each degree saving 10% on your heating bill.

This book is uses language accessible to the general reader, tackles an extremely complex area of policy with simple clarity, and cuts through the prevailing rhetoric and ignorance about these matters.

What more could you want?