Select Committee on Environmental Audit Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Science Museum, London


  The Science Museum welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the House of Common's Environmental Audit Committee's inquiry into Sustainable Energy: Renewables and the PIU review. The Science Museum is part of the National Museum of Science and Industry (NMSI) that also includes the National Railway Museum, York, and the National Museum of Photography, Film, and Television, Bradford. The Science Museum is a Non-Departmental Government Body overseen and part-funded in grant in aid by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

  The Science Museum has over 1.8 million estimated visitors a year. We have recently completed a major strategic review across NMSI and established the key principles and features of our new direction. Our overall purpose is to "engage people in dialogue, to create meanings from the past, present and future of human ingenuity."

  NMSI will underpin everything we do with six fundamental values:

    —  We create social capital

    —  We champion sustainability

    —  We offer the real thing

    —  We maintain integrity and quality

    —  We create enjoyment

    —  We encourage boldness and innovation.

  In attempting to develop projects that we feel meet many objectives of the sustainable energy agenda, we have come across a number of difficulties in obtaining government funding and support. In this submission we will highlight recent Government reports and statements about cross-departmental sustainable development requirements, putting these in the context of projects under development by NMSI. Particular focus is given to our "Energy Hall" project—see section 3 for more detail).


DETR—A better quality of life: a strategy for sustainable development for the United Kingdom (May 1999)

  In the DETR produced "A better quality of life" in May 1999, the Government published a strategy for the UK that acknowledged that government cannot achieve sustainable development on its own. The strategy identifies action by business, local authorities, voluntary groups and all of us as individuals. It acknowledges that improved awareness of sustainable development can be a powerful tool for change. In March 1998, the Government launched "Are you doing your bit?", a campaign in England focusing on specific issues related to sustainable development, showing how people can influence their local and global environment. The report states that "the Government will work with public bodies, voluntary organisations, business and trade unions to reinforce the (sustainable development) campaign's messages."

Cabinet Office PIU—The Energy Review (February 2002)

  The Cabinet Office PIU Energy Review recommended changes to departmental structures and responsibilities. The review suggests that in the long-term the Government should be aiming to bring together the interlinked themes of energy policy, climate change policy and transport policy in one department of state. It offers that as an immediate response to the challenge, the Government should set up a Sustainable Energy Policy Unit that would be a "cross-cutting unit staffed by civil servants from all the departments with an interest in sustainable energy, as well as staff from the Devolved Administrations, external experts and people from the private sector." The report suggests that the unit should provide cross-cutting analytical capability, ensuring that critical developments in energy use and supply were monitored and assessed, and lead on the development of strategic policy issues, adapting quickly to changing circumstances. The report also recommends that a review should be undertaken to ensure that activities of national agencies that deliver low carbon policies are fully co-ordinated. The Science Museum supports these recommendations and suggests that such a co-ordinated unit also become a provider of funds for exemplary projects that hit a range of aspects important to the development and evolution of sustainable energy technologies and public understanding.

  The PIU reports also highlights the need for national public education and debate on the future of UK energy. The report acknowledges that "although technology has a large part to play, the implementation of an ambitious low carbon policy is a demanding task and just as important are changes in attitudes and assumptions". Commitment to a low-carbon energy policy implies a general shift in perceptions and actors within and outside the energy industry would need to evaluate their energy policy decisions, gradually shifting towards low carbon use. "It would be wrong to imagine that everything can be `win-win': there are some hard choices and there will be losers as well as winners. For this reason the Government needs to take the issues to the public soon". The report concludes that the Government needs to immediately conduct an open public debate about energy systems, covering the issue of security, the shift to a low carbon economy and the role of the various low carbon technologies, including nuclear power. With over 1.5 million visitors per year and a wide geographic reach, an institution such as the Science Museum is ideally positioned to be involved in such a national public debate. The report also recommends that consultation carried out in the aftermath of the PIU review should be seen as only the beginning of a longer programme of public engagement in energy issues, again a recommendation that the "Energy Hall" project can help to deliver.

Cabinet Office PIU—Resource Productivity: making more with less (November 2001)

  This report also acknowledges that cultural change will be a key part of moving towards sustainable development. "It will be important for Government to step up the process of engaging, educating and preparing society for these changes". The Science Museum agrees that the need to take forward and adapt to a significant number of technological, institutional and social innovations is clear. "If the households, companies and organisations of the UK are going to accept and be comfortable with these changes, it will be essential that they understand and accept their role and purpose. Without this, the effectiveness of policy will be constrained, and the road towards sustainable development will be beset with problems rather than opportunities."

  Information on its own is unlikely to be enough. Individuals are much more likely to change their behaviour if they are given the opportunity and the space to assess the facts, and to reach their own conclusions concerning the impact of their resource use on the environment. The report makes particular reference to the fact that the Science Museum has been pioneering this approach to interactive information-sharing in its exhibitions on a number of key issues facing 21st century Britain. Instead of just providing abstract facts, we place visitors at the centre of the issues concerned. In doing so, we encourage direct participation in the debate on these issues, and promote that individual contributions can make a difference. The report recommends that DEFRA liaise with DCMS in drawing lessons from the experience of the Science Museum, in terms of its programmes for encouraging direct participation and debate. "This sort of approach seems to have merit in properly engaging the public in a discussion about the important issues relating to sustainable development and quality of life." The Science Museum proposes that the "Energy Hall" project will have all these elements and build on our experiences of such an approach.

Cabinet Office PIU—Renewable energy in the UK: building for the future of the environment (November 2001)

  This Cabinet Office PIU report recommended the allocation of an additional £100 million announced by the Prime Minister in March 2001 to support renewable technologies. The report concluded that "initiatives on the planning front will not help get renewable energy off the ground unless the public extends its general support for renewable energy to support for renewable energy in local situations." This makes community engagement critical, so that more people are either individually involved in renewable energy schemes or able to see them. Making people more aware of the implications of renewable energy will smooth the planning process and their uptake. With a reach of over 1.5 million visitors per year, we propose that the "Energy Hall" project (and similar projects) will engage a wide range of communities in thinking about renewable energy and related issues.

The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution's 22nd report—Energy: The Changing Climate (June 2000)

  The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution's 22nd report concluded that "there is little public awareness or acceptance of the measures needed to accomplish sustained, deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions." The government needs to secure active support by industry, commerce, local authorities and society in general, and people and organisations should be made aware of the way in which their use of fossil fuels is contributing to climate change. They should then be encouraged to take responsibility for their own reductions in fossil fuel consumption. "The framework in which energy and environmental policies are devised must enable people to feel that if they are `doing their bit' then so are others—including local and central government, large corporations and institutions". Again, we propose that the "Energy Hall" project (and similar projects) will assist in raising awareness that everybody can do their bit and have an impact.

Sustainable Development Education Panel—Learning to create quality of life (January 2002)

  The most recent report of the Sustainable Development Education Panel encourages DfES to seek out and take up other educational opportunities relevant to sustainable development. It highlights that many learning opportunities are informal, though their nature and impact are more difficult to identify because they often occur outside a recognised educational setting. Informal learning takes place whenever a person of any age gains knowledge, skill, understanding or a deepening of values. Examples of this happening include through copying or coaching, by reading or watching television, or visiting museums. In these informal situations, the learner's motivation is high and what is learned often has a real, practical and immediate impact. The panel believes that "informal learning is an area of current thinking about sustainable development education with unrealised potential to make an impact on the quality of all of our lives." The "Energy Hall" project would be an exemplar of such informal learning and be an ideal opportunity to realise the potential of this approach.

  The panel is now exploring this "informal learning" agenda and the report details a number of significant obstacles to bringing about appropriate changes. These include: "a clear need to raise awareness and understanding of education of sustainable development among funders; a hunger for clear and consistent messages from Government and others; and the need for clearer and better resourced messages are needed, consistently reinforced across Government." The panel suggests that were all relevant Government departments to provide information in parallel, linked by a communication campaign with common threads, sustainable development education, leading to positive action at all levels, would follow.


  We are currently developing a project that seeks to demonstrate, integrate and adopt innovative energy technologies and practices in the East Hall of the Science Museum, London. A refurbished atrium roof will be constructed of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels that will generate electricity for the museum, include a demonstration wind turbine, and use natural light and new ventilation arrangements to create an improved internal environment for visitors and objects. This will replace the existing roof that is both visually unattractive and leaks.

  Exhibits will encourage visitors to think about how we generate and use energy, climate change issues and sustainable development futures. We will showcase technologies that will help us, as individuals, households, schools, businesses and communities, take positive action to meet the challenges of climate change. We will demonstrate how the daily choices everyone makes about how to travel, when to use household appliances, or recycle items, add up to the big picture of resource use and global climate change. Estimated project completion is October 2004.


  We applied for a Government contribution to funding of the project through the DTI large scale Building Integrated PV (BIPV) field trial in late 2001. Funding was available through an open application on the basis of a competitive tender for projects scheduled for completion by April 2003.

  Available funding covered additional PV related design costs (to a maximum level of £20,000), the purchase of BIPV equipment (to a maximum £4/W peak of electricity output from the PV), and for monitoring and assessment (limited to £40,000). Out of estimated total project costs of the "Energy Hall" project of £5.5 million (construction and exhibition), we identified £734,200 eligible under the specifications of the field trail, for which we applied for a total of £135,000 (2.5 per cent of estimated total project cost). This was made up of £15,000 design costs, £80,000 for the 20kW peak output PV array, and £40,000 for monitoring.

  The results of the tender analysis were original expected by 28 February 2002 but were delayed until mid March. A press notice issued by the DTI on 18 March 2002 confirmed that we were not successful in the initial funding round. Criteria for selection seems to have focussed on project delivery by April 2003—beyond the "Energy Hall" projects timescales. However, we have yet to discuss our application with the DTI and feel that it is prudent to reserve further comment until we have met with appropriate DTI representatives.

  We propose to meet the project funding requirements through a combination of private sponsor arrangements, allocation of existing internal funds, and through a possible link to an existing EU funded project that focuses on energy efficiency and sustainability in museum buildings. In light of the alignment of the project with UK Government's sustainable development objectives, we would also like to seek cross-departmental Government funding. However, as yet, no such funding appears available for projects that do not sit within neatly defined criteria of different departments, but seek to address wider reaching and cross departmental objectives. As detailed above, our recent DTI application would have only contributed 2.5 per cent to total project costs. The lack of such funding suggests that the inherent interdisciplinary aspects of sustainable development issues are not yet reflected in Government funding and support programmes.


  The National Railway Museum is developing a site at Shildon in the North East of England. NRM are awaiting a response to their application for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Discussions continue as to the possible roof integration of a PV array.

  A 250 hectare site in Wroughton, near Swindon. The initial concept for this site, Creative Planet, is for it to become a hub and icon for sustainable development in the UK and world-wide including the "National Living Collections Centre" and "Centre for Sustainable Development".

  Managed by an exhibition development team within the Science Museum's Trading Company, the redevelopment of the visitors centre at BNFL's Sellafield plant is nearing completion. The exhibition will engage visitors with the current debate about the use of nuclear power, making them feel empowered and better informed to make decisions by exposing them to a wide range of information and opinions.


  The UK Government's sustainable development agenda promotes cross-departmental activities to address economic, social and environmental development objectives. We feel that our "Energy Hall" and other projects are well aligned with such cross-departmental aspirations.

  For example, the PV roof demonstrates innovative technology (DTI), the exhibits will demonstrate and promote domestic energy technologies and efficient practices (DEFRA), we will discuss causes and responses to global climate change (DEFRA), address sustainable development issues (DEFRA), new transport technologies (DTLR) and address wider sustainable development education requirements (DfES). The proposed exhibit elements of the project will also align with the mission and objectives of NMSI and the Science Museum as sponsored by DCMS.

  Recent reports produced by the Cabinet Office Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) on Renewable Energy Technologies, Resource Productivity and the UK Energy Review make clear reference to a range of issues and objectives relevant to Science Museum projects. The Green Ministers report on "Greening Government" and the Comprehensive Spending Review 2002 also make reference to joining up Government thinking on sustainable development. We have highlighted above some of the conclusions and recommendations of these and other reports. We offer that these conclusions and recommendations have yet to be backed by appropriate cross-departmental sources of funding that would assist exemplar projects such as those presently under development by the Science Museum.


  As detailed in this memorandum, we feel that the cross-departmental sustainable energy agenda advocated by industry observers and Government is not yet reflected in a single point of contact for funding and support. Such a "one-stop shop" would ease the development of projects that seek to tackle the range of issues identified for improvement. For example, demonstration projects of new and innovative energy technologies could run alongside a dissemination programme (exhibits, web-based resources, conferences, etc) that provoke a public debate on issues such as renewable technologies, nuclear power, resource productivity and individuals contributions to global climate change.

  The Science Museum propose that detailed consideration should be given to establishing a single point of contact for funding and support for exemplary projects that meet cross-departmental sustainable development objectives. Not only will such projects address the cross-departmental needs of sustainable development and energy futures, they may also encourage further and necessary cross-departmental activities and co-ordination within Government.

March 2002

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