Memorandum from the Natural Environment
Research Council (NERC)
1. The Natural Environment Research Council
(NERC) welcomes this review and the opportunity to provide input.
2. NERC leads in providing independent research
and training in the environmental sciences. NERC's purpose is
to support high quality scientific research, survey, monitoring
and postgraduate training with the objective of enhancing knowledge,
understanding and prediction of the environment and its resources.
NERC achieves this through its support of scientists at universities
and through its own Research Centres and Collaborative Centres.
NERC's research centres are: the British Antarctic Survey (BAS),
the British Geological Survey (BGS), the Centre for Ecology and
Hydrology (CEH) and the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory (POL).
A list of NERC's collaborative centres is appended.
R&D AND CAPITAL
3. NERC is a major funder of research, training
and knowledge transfer activities in the area of climate change.
As such we invest a small amount (circa £115,000 per annum)
in renewable energy research, mostly to support wind and solar
power generation in Antarctica and a project on sea wave energy.
Our Centre for Ecology and Hydrology also has expertise in biofuels
and hydroelectricity, and has previously undertaken a number of
research contracts in these areas. NERC, together with EPSRC,
ESRC and the DTI, also invests in the Tyndall Centre for Climate
Change. At present, Tyndall is supporting research on carbon management
and reduction and new and renewable energy technologies (£0.5
4. Following the outcome of the Government's
2000 Spending Review in November 2000, NERC was asked to lead
the Research Councils in furthering cross Council collaboration
in the area of technology for sustainability and energy.
5. In taking this forward we have worked
with the other Research Councils, DTI, the Carbon Trust and others
to develop proposals for a new programme of research and training
entitled "Towards a sustainable energy economy". If
funded, this initiative would help enable the UK to access a safe,
secure, diverse and reliable energy supply at competitive prices,
whilst meeting the challenge of global warming. A key element
of our proposals is the establishment of an Energy Research Centre(s)
to bring together interdisciplinary teams with expertise in the
scientific, technological, social, economic, environmental and
health aspects of energy research. It is intended that this Centre(s)
would provide a national and possibly European focus to integrate
and accelerate research in this priority area.
6. These priorities are reflected in NERC's
new strategic priorities document "Science for a Sustainable
Future 2002-07" which will be published in April 2002.
7. At present, we do not believe there is
sufficient "joined-up" working between those engaged
in energy research. For example, DTI's recently published Draft
Strategy for Energy Research, Development, Demonstration and Deployment
set out a clear direction for DTI-funded activity, but did not
place this work in the broader context. No mention was made of
how the strategy fitted with current and planned energy research
funded by others including industry, the Research Councils, DEFRA
and the Carbon Trust.
8. There are a range of organisations currently
investing in energy R&D, and NERC believes an integrated approach
will ensure that the Government's key energy policy objectives
of secure, diverse and sustainable supplies of energy at competitive
prices are realised. Building on UK strengths, it is now timely
to bring together the Science and Engineering base, policy makers
and business in new partnerships to tackle this multidisciplinary
research agenda, and address the environmental, social and economic
aspects of energy research. There is a clear need to respond to
the reality of global warming, and an opportunity for the UK to
take the lead, both in terms of policy and in developing new technologies
and management solutions.
9. Technological, social and behavioural
innovation are essential if the UK is to meet the goal of reduced
CO2 emissions, whilst at the same time providing security
of supply. The UK science base and industry must work together
to develop and adopt technologies and practices to contribute
to sustainable development and competitiveness. Future sustainable
development of the economy requires the decoupling of economic
growth from adverse environmental impacts. Radical improvements
in resource productivity will only benefit the UK if they are
acceptable to society.
10. In particular, NERC believes there is
a current need for research into the environmental impact of new
and emerging energy technologies and we endorse the findings of
the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee Seventh
Report into Wave and Tidal Energy.
PIU ENERGY REVIEW
11. NERC supports the outcome of the PIU
Energy Review, and in particular the report of the Chief Scientific
Advisor's Energy Research Review Group (Annex 8) and our Chief
Executive, Professor John Lawton FRS was a member of the Energy
Review Group, and we therefore endorse the recommendations and
research priorities identified in this section.
12. We welcome the specific recommendation
to develop detailed proposals for an Energy Research Centre, and
look forward to working with OST and the new Sustainable Energy
Policy Unit on this project.