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UK White Paper outlines strategy for clean, secure energy supply

Success or failure in tackling climate change, by reducing carbon dioxide emissions and ensuring secure, clean and affordable energy, will impact upon almost every aspect of daily life and economic performance, begins a new White Paper from the UK Government on energy. The pa...

Success or failure in tackling climate change, by reducing carbon dioxide emissions and ensuring secure, clean and affordable energy, will impact upon almost every aspect of daily life and economic performance, begins a new White Paper from the UK Government on energy. The paper outlines strategies to save energy and develop cleaner energy supplies and secure energy supplies, and includes a chapter on 'research and development, demonstration and deployment, and skills' - key components in meeting the energy challenge. The paper draws on the Stern Review, published in 2006, which indicated that the costs of doing nothing now would be far greater in the long term than if climate change were tackled now. Sir Nicholas Stern also emphasised that finding new technologies for producing and using energy in the generation of electricity, heating and transport are key to reducing carbon emissions cost-effectively. The UK Government has set in motion a number of initiatives aimed at accelerating the design and introduction of new technologies. The Energy Technologies Institute, a joint public-private sector venture, will be launched shortly, with a minimum budget of GBP 600 million (€887 million) over 10 years. The institute will be devoted to emerging low carbon technologies research and development (R&D). 'Our ambition is that it will become part of a global network connecting the best scientists and engineers working in these fields,' says the White Paper. In addition, the Environmental Transformation Fund, due to open in 2008, will amalgamate the Government's funding for demonstration and deployment of low carbon energy and energy efficiency technologies with support for energy and environment-related international development. Alongside the White Paper, the Government is also publishing a Low Carbon Transport Innovation Strategy, setting out its approach to stimulating innovation in low carbon transport activities. Explaining the Government's support for technological development, the White Paper states: 'Without support new energy technologies are unlikely to develop within the timescales necessary to reduce the risks of climate change'. The reasons are as follows: energy technology innovation inherently involves costs and risks, including long periods of development; it is difficult for new technologies to displace existing energy sources, which are usually cheaper to produce and often benefit from economies of scale and widespread deployment; the cost of carbon is not adequately reflected in the price that we currently pay for energy. The UK's objective is thus to promote the development of new technologies from the initial concept to the point when they can be deployed commercially. One of the challenges facing the UK energy sector is a skills gap. A survey of the oil and gas, nuclear and chemical process sectors showed that 72% of companies are experiencing skills gaps, notably in project management, technical and practical skills. Skills gaps are also increasing because the workforce is faced with unfamiliar processes and technologies. 'Recruitment and training are key to developing a new workforce but there is the additional challenge of transferring knowledge and experience from the older generation,' states the paper. This is essential as a significant proportion of today's power stations, gas terminals, refineries, and transmission and distribution systems will be in operation beyond 2025, albeit with more advanced equipment. The Government has pledged to invest in and improve the teaching of science, engineering and technology in schools, and to also increase the numbers of women and people from ethnic minorities working in the sector, which have traditionally been very low. The White Paper estimates that all of the measures that it outlines will, together, deliver annual savings of between 23 and 33 million tonnes of carbon in 2020.