The Beam interview series, edition 20: Adrian Ramsay
CleanTechnica keeps on publishing some of The Beam interviews twice a week. The Beam magazine takes a modern perspective on the energy transition, interviewing inspirational people from around the world that shape our sustainable energy future.
This week Anne-Sophie Garrigou, journalist at The Beam, interviewed Adrian Ramsay, Chief Executive of the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Wales, an education and visitor center demonstrating practical solutions for sustainability.
What is the Centre for Alternative Technology and what are its missions?
The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) is an environmental education and research center, based in Wales in the UK.
Our mission is to inspire, inform and enable people in practical solutions for sustainable living. We do this through a range of different activities, including a visitor center open to the public, school visits and outreach work, postgraduate courses and vocational training, and a free information service for people who want to make changes in their own homes and communities.
We cover a wide variety of sustainability issues, from renewable energy and green building to woodland management and organic growing. Our Zero Carbon Britain project looks at ways of getting to net zero greenhouse gas emissions using technology available today.
What does a typical day look like at the Centre for Alternative Technology?
I’m not sure we have such a thing as a typical day! During the school holidays, when our visitor center is at its busiest, you might see children learning about renewable energy by building solar-powered boats and watching them speed across our ponds. When our postgraduate students are here, you’ll hear snippets of animated conversation about solutions to climate change, or you’ll see them setting up experiments in solar tracking or building innovative structures as they learn about sustainable materials and methods. There might be a school group staying in our self-contained Eco Cabins, exploring environmental issues in an immersive learning environment. We also hire out our venue for events — so last weekend a couple got married at CAT. No two days are the same.
According to you, why is it important to develop renewable energy and is there an “emergency” about the situation of sustainable development?
Climate change makes it not just important but essential that we get to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the second half of this century. We simply cannot keep pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and expect life to continue as normal. We are already seeing the effects of the global temperature rise — in the UK we’ve experienced increasingly extreme weather patterns, with record rainfall causing flooding up and down the country. Around the world, food supplies are being disrupted, homes are being ruined and lives are already being lost because of our changing climate. If emissions continue on their current trajectory, things will get much, much worse.
So we need to find workable solutions. We need to ‘power down’ our energy use, and we do this by retrofitting our housing stock to make homes and businesses more energy efficient, by transforming our food systems to reduce emissions from agriculture, and by changing the way we travel, including a significant reduction in aviation. At the same time, we need to ‘power up’ our clean energy supplies, investing in the technologies that will help us get to zero. In the UK, we have a great wind resource, and could meet this reduced energy demand through a combination of off-shore and on-shore wind, solar energy, hydro-power and UK-sourced biomass.
CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain: Rethinking the Future report explores a scenario that would result in net zero greenhouse gas emissions, using only technology available today — it’s a scenario that ensures that the lights stay on and that we don’t have to sacrifice too many of our comforts. Similar scenarios have been developed for countries all over the world, and we’ve brought all of these together in our Who’s Getting Ready for Zero? report to show that we already have the technology to create a climate safe future.