The debate continues to rage: how to make the transition to living without emitting greenhouse gases? Renewables are pitched against nuclear, Carbon Capture and Storage against energy efficiency. It’s difficult to know where to focus our efforts. At Sandbag, we’re always keen to get answers by going back to the data, and we think there are some numbers that have been neglected from these vital arguments, so we’ve built a new app to enable you to track the numbers, moment to moment.

Sandbag app frontpage

Foremost among these neglected numbers is carbon intensity of the power grid. Rather than looking at just the growth of renewables or gains in energy efficiency, carbon intensity reveals how well the grid as a whole is making the transistion; how much CO2 is emitted for each kWh of electricity? The UK Committee on Climate Change suggests we need to be at 50-100gCO2/kWh by 2030 in order to meet the 80% cut in emissions from 1990 required by the UK Climate Change Act. We currently average around 400gCO2/kWh, so there’s plenty of work to do.

Grid CO2 intensity

The app shows grid carbon intensity now, and forecasts the next 24 hours, allowing users to predict when electricity use will be cleanest. It’s currently only for the UK, but we hope to include other countries soon. A breakdown of the balance between different generating types is provided, revealing current supply percentage for wind vs coal or solar vs gas. We’ll continue to improve this forecast in future, and report back on how closely it matches reality.

EU carbon price

The app also includes the current and historical EU carbon price, showing how much a tonne of CO2 pollution is worth on the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. As Sandbag has shown before, the continuing enormous surplus of pollution permits on the EU carbon market mean the carbon price is failing to drive emissions reductions. The market is broken, and needs fixing.

Global CO2 concentration

Finally, the global atmospheric CO2 concentration is given, showing the speed at which humanity is surging towards the 450ppm CO2 ‘danger threshold’ that world governments have pledged to avoid.

Bryony Worthington, Director of Sandbag commented: “The CO2 intensity of our electricity supply is not getting the attention it deserves. By 2030, we need the total power supply to be around 50g/kWh, whilst the current average hovers around 400g/kWh. Quick gains can be made by preventing the UK's old, inefficient and unabated coal stations providing anything other than a short term back-up role.”

Get the app here:

Android app on Google Play

iOS app on the iTunes store

We spoke briefly about the app on the BBC World Newsroom program on Tuesday 8th: