Visitors to this year’s Times Cheltenham Science Festival enjoyed two events from the Royal Academy of Engineering on energy: an Oxford debate on wind power and a platform discussion on the challenge of heating our homes in a low carbon era.

In the debate, science broadcaster Vivienne Parry, in the chair, put the motion to the panel members and the audience: “This House believes that Britain should be a fan of wind energy”.

Speaking for the motion were Dr Andrew Garrad FREng and environmentalist Jonathon Porritt, who proposed that wind would play a key role in future energy production alongside other renewable sources. Taking the stand against the motion were energy policy analyst John Constable and writer and independent political researcher Ben Pile.

In a heated debate, concerns were raised as to the cost and efficiency of wind power, along with the consequent need to redesign the grid in order to manage this intermittent form of energy. Audience members also questioned whether wind really did represent a form of energy security for the UK – as the manufacturing of turbine magnets required the rare earth neodymium from China. However these concerns were rebutted by Dr Garrad who explained that turbines did not necessarily need rare earth magnets, raising the point that a wind turbine could function for 20 years, and make up for the carbon costs used for manufacture in just nine months.

In the platform event, Professor Roger Kemp FREng took to the stage with television presenter Robert Llewellyn to discuss the challenges of heating our homes in an energy efficient way. Professor Kemp outlined the key points from a recent Academy study on domestic heating, which he had led. As most of the houses that will exist in 2050 have already been built, Professor Kemp explained that major improvements will have to be retrofitted to existing homes. However, given the diversity of the buildings involved, not one solution will work for all. He also highlighted the need for a skilled workforce who are able to work with and understand new technologies such as heat pumps.

Videos of both events from the festival can be viewed online at RAEng.TV at the following links:
Watch the video Wind Power: The Great Debate
Watch the video Can we keep warm and still save the world?

Notes for editors

  1. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.
  2. The Times Cheltenham Science Festival (12-17 June 2012)

    ‘Unquestionably the leading Science Festival in the country’ Professor Lord Winston

    The Times Cheltenham Science Festival is a six-day celebration of science, engineering and the arts which brings the public face to face with some of the world’s greatest thinkers. Established in 2002, The Times Cheltenham Science Festival has grown to become one of the world’s greatest science events and annually attracts impressive speakers and audiences from across the globe. With a programme of serious debate, live experiments and surprising speakers, the 2012 Festival promised the very best platform to explore the world around us. The full programmeis availableat:

For more information please contact

Manisha Lalloo at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Tel. 020 7766 0683; email: Manisha Lalloo