Sustainability: Viewing fusion through a wider lens

By Christofer Mowry, Chief Executive Officer at General Fusion. Two weeks of concentrated attention on climate change, which COP26 brought the world in November, has reinforced the conviction that strong public-private partnerships are essential to achieving a sustainable low carbon future. Leaders must unite the complementary strengths of industry and government in a union of ambition to overcome the massive challenge of reinventing our global energy system, which powers everything we use and everything we do. More than 800 years after the Magna Carta laid the foundations for recognizing civil rights in society, we are witnessing the creation of new foundations for another social transformation. Advocates, technologists, investors, and politicians are inspiring action to achieve a more inclusive, equitable, and prosperous future – a more sustainable future firmly grounded on a low-carbon energy system.

Earlier this year, Charles, Prince of Wales, offered his own basis for hastening a just transition to this future, the Terra Carta. Building on his Sustainable Markets Initiative, which was launched in 2020, the Terra Carta is a ten-point charter of more ambitious action. It calls for creating sustainable industries which empower consumers and redesign nature-centric transitions to a net-zero carbon society. It envisions a mandate for sustainable investing which scales and acknowledges nature as the true engine of our economy. General Fusion sees itself in the principles of Prince Charles’ Terra Carta.

Accordingly, in the weeks leading up to COP26, General Fusion entered into an agreement with the British government to form the world’s first public-private fusion partnership with UKAEA’s Culham Centre for Fusion Energy. We entered this unique partnership to build our Fusion Demonstration Plant (FDP), knowing that strong market signals help sustainable technology solutions scale more quickly. General Fusion is also building customer insights through our Market Development Advisory Committee (MDAC) of leading energy sector companies around the world. We do so with an awareness that bringing these MDAC insights to the FDP stage creates the opportunity to motivate future innovators and stakeholders in the energy transition.

Scheduled to begin construction at Culham in September 2022, the FDP will be much more than a technology demonstration project. It is intended to embody a common vision of how industry and government can collaborate to meet the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The FDP will show that society’s critical infrastructure can be constructed sustainably, achieving a near net-zero carbon footprint and targeting zero biodiversity loss. We are accomplishing these objectives and more by creating an ever-widening network of industry and government partners. We integrate other important sustainability initiatives into our projects, such as the use of low-carbon concrete (which is normally a significant source of CO2) and natural cooling and lighting from advanced materials.

The global energy transition and its role in creating a sustainable future also depend on engaging more inclusively with all stakeholders within our society. We strongly believe fusion must play a crucial role in transforming how society interacts with its energy systems. Therefore, the FDP will also become a convening space for all stakeholders in the energy transition, providing a setting and context for the exploration of ever more ambitious initiatives. To assist us in fulfilling this aspiration, Amanda Levete, one of Britain’s Sterling Award-winning architects, has joined our FDP project. General Fusion is working with her firm, AL_A, to communicate, through the medium of architecture, the vision of how fusion will help create a more sustainable, more inclusive future for society.

The Fusion Demonstration Plant that General Fusion is building on the banks of the Thames will become a wider lens, bringing focus to all these manifold themes of a sustainable future of energy. Perhaps it is fitting that on these same banks, the Magna Carta brought focus to the outlines of a more civil society eight centuries earlier. The development of fusion energy treads the same momentously important path toward a better society.