Carbon Trust chief executive Tom Delay was speaking at a Civils 2008 debate on the merits of nuclear, renewables and carbon capture and storage (CCS), but said carbon emissions could be cut more quickly and efficiently through energy efficiency.
"Nuclear, renewables and CCS all have a part to play [in cutting carbon] but we shouldn't assume they are the only solutions," said delay.
"Energy efficiency is likely to be significant going forward and I think it's a great opportunity for engineers and engineering. The short term returns are from energy efficiency. There are so many businesses focused on costs at the moment…energy efficiency is a no-brainer."
Nuclear Industries Association chief executive Keith Parker, also speaking at the debate, said he agreed with the Government's policy of using a mix of renewables and nuclear to deliver low-carbon energy, but said more needed to be done on the issue of carbon pricing.
"The Government has to remove barriers to investment," said Parker.
"All low carbon technologies need a mechanism to deliver a long term price for carbon. We also need greater clarity and insurance that political support for nuclear will remain."
CCS, however, was given short shrift by the debate panel at Civils, dismissed as prohibitively expensive and not likely to deliver any carbon savings before the EU's carbon emission targets for 2020.
Despite this, Mouchel managing director of regulated industries Piers Clark said research and development of CCS must continue, as the technology was likely to be vital to energy security in the long term, especially in a coal-rich nation like Britain.
"Cars and PCs started off as prohibitively expensive, but as technology developed, prices soon tumbled," said Clark.
"We need to start the CCS journey and things will get cheaper."