Why conventional power generation is not the enemy in the fight for carbon-free future

21st May 2019 | Commercial Energy

The power generation market is awash with misconceptions. Not least of which, is the misconception about who “invented” electricity – noting of course that electricity is a form of energy and it occurs in nature, so technically it was never “invented” but more accurately it was “discovered”. Some give credit to Benjamin Franklin’s experiments of 1752, wherein he reportedly used a kite and a key in a storm, to establish the connection between lightning and electricity. But the truth about the discovery of electricity is more complex than a man flying his kite.

In about 600BC, the ancient Greeks discovered that rubbing fur on amber (fossilised tree resin) caused an attraction between the two – the Greeks had discovered static electricity. In the 1930’s archeologists discovered pots with sheets of copper inside that they believe were used as batteries to produce light at ancient Roman sites. Although contested by some, it has been reported that similar devices were found in archeological digs near Baghdad, suggesting ancient Persians may have also used an early form of batteries.

Ironically, in the context of Great Britain’s power generation market – once the envy of free-marketeers around the world – in 2019, we head back towards technologies that may have been deployed by the ancient Persians to support our electricity network and are surrounded by a kite-flying myth, which suggests 100 per cent renewable energy is a reality today.

In January 2019, Sir David Attenborough, the 92-year-old British naturalist, delivered a compelling speech at the opening ceremony of the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. In his speech he called on businesses and governments to find a “practical solution” to the issue of climate change, adding that without action on climate change, civilisation would collapse, and it was up to humans to use their natural problem-solving skills to find a solution.

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