Interview with Chris Goodall
How can the world now become a world of low fossil fuel?
It’s easier than it has ever been. We now have a range of technologies that can be deployed everywhere around the world – including in less prosperous countries – to provide energy for all. The principal ingredient is solar photovoltaics, a way of generating electricity that is getting cheaper all the time.
This isn’t enough, not least because the sun only shines for part of the day. But it forms a basis. It can be supplemented by a range of technologies, including wind in higher latitudes, many of which are moving rapidly to being cost-competitive with fossil fuels. These include transport oils from biomass such as algae, hydrocarbons developed from artificial photosynthesis and enhanced anaerobic digestion.
In addition, we’re seeing fast advances in tidal energy, geothermal and concentrating solar power, an approach which can store energy for use in the darker hours.
Can you give tips how an individual can contribute to reduce the carbon emission?
This is uncomfortable. For reasonably affluent people in industrial countries the two things that would make most difference are giving up flying and eating less meat. My first book (How to Live a Low-carbon Life) was about just this. But I found that most people didn’t want to change their lifestyle to avoid air travel and meat. This is why I started to work on the technologies that might allow people to continue with conventional lives but have less impact on the planet.
What kinds of clients have you worked with in the past?
I’ve worked with companies in most low-carbon fields. These include a small wind turbine company, an electric car charging business, a producer of biological plastics (very interesting field, by the way), investors looking at recycling tyres and new ways of making solar panels and a very large retailer wanting to support community energy.
How do audiences gain from your keynote presentations?
I hope they leave with a sense that the world actually can change in time. This is the most exciting moment to be involved in energy. The world’s energy system has huge inertia – we’ve spend a hundred years building up the current infrastructure at a huge cost – but the prospects for low carbon energy sources are now clear even to climate skeptics.
What do you personally gain from being a public speaker?
I love communicating ideas that offer the world a better future.