Examination of Witnesses (Questions 110
WEDNESDAY 30 OCTOBER 2002
110. Professor Hulme, nice to see you again.
We know that you represent the Tyndall Centre. Dr Scott and Dr
Watson, nice to meet you. We are looking forward to this session
and we hope that we will gain some information about the well-reputed
Tyndall Centre and the work that you are doing. We are very pleased
with it. Mike, let me start off by asking right away, the government
policy on energy research and development, what do think might
be wrong with it in general?
(Professor Hulme) In general terms, I
think that the UK has a great international advantage in that
we are seen as being one of the leading countries to promote the
notion of a global agreement to control climate change and within
the UK that is backed, at the present time, by a strong commitment
and determination to meet our Kyoto obligations of reducing greenhouse
gas emissions by 12½% and an internal target, of course,
of going beyond Kyoto by reducing carbon emissions by 20%. Currently
there are a number of initiatives and policies in place to attempt
to ensure that those two targets are met. It seems to me that
that puts the UK in a very strong position internationally. This
is also reinforced because we have one or two of the leading international
scientific organisations who are researching into climate change,
the Hadley Centre in particular. So it seems to me that these
advantages that the UK have internationally need to be reinforced
and bolstered through improving and extending the range of policies
that are going to lead to further reductions in greenhouse gas
emissions. I am coming on to answer the question. Part of this
comes back, in the end, to how much public money is made available
for research into new energy R & D. So that would be my context,
if you like, for this question. The context is the UK are regarded
internationally as one of the leading advocates for global climate
policy and control and the way in which energy R & D is taken
forward in this country should be put into that global context.
In our that we made to your inquiry, the Tyndall Centre made a
number of points and observations about the current state of R
& D in the country and I will leave Jim Watson here, from
SPRU at the University of Sussex just to rehearse one or two of
the key conclusions that we reached in our survey.
(Dr Watson) Thank you. I think one of our main criticisms,
if it is a criticism, is not that we are doing too much or too
little of a particular technology, or whatever. What I am quite
keen not to do, and what we have been keen not to do in our submission,
is to talk about pro and anti certain options for reducing greenhouse
gases. One of our big key points, as you will see in our submission,
is about balance and the fact that one particular option seems
to dominate the amount of government money going into energy R
& D, which is nuclear fusion, and has done for a long, long
period of time. Of course, nuclear fusion has a great potential
in tackling climate change
111. We will be asking you about nuclear fusion
in particular later on.
(Dr Watson) Okay, I will not make that
point. But I think on the balance question, I would question whether
it is good to have a particular option like that that dominates
things. Then the other point that I would want to emphasise is
that R & D is just part of the story and that actually R &
D is fine, but then if you leave R & D, it is actually deployment
of technologies that we really need to make carbon emission reductions
and that is something that has been a bug bear of mine for quite
a long time. That is that a lot of government programmes do some
great R & D and perhaps some great demonstration too, but
then it stops.
112. You talk in your submission too about too
many funders and agencies, poor coordination between them. How
would you tackle that problem then? What is the answer to that?
(Dr Watson) We are obviously aware of
the moves towards a national energy centre and we would welcome
that if it is rather like Tyndall isI will let Mike pick
up on thisa distributed centre. I think there is not a
case for a new institution, creating a new institution in a physical
sense, but there is certainly a case for coordinating what is
there because there is a lot of R & D both publically and
privately going on, but it needs much better coordination. Whether
that is a case for a natural energy centre, I am not sure. Maybe
Mike can talk about that.
(Professor Hulme) We are aware that these proposals
are currently under consideration at the moment and the other
dimension to such a national centre would be the ability to bring
together different research perspectives on the questions of how
we actually not just develop new energies, but actually deploy
and integrate them into society. That requires clearly very close
cooperation between our engineering sciences, our environmental
and social scientists and our economic and policy analysts. This
is just as deep a challenge, if you like, of cross-disciplinary
research as indeed the Tyndall Centre is facing in tackling the
bigger question of climate change. So our argument would be that
some sort of model along these lines, that could bring together
these different research perspectives under one distributed national
centre, allowing the best players to participate together, would
be certainly appropriate.
113. What about the DTI's role in this? Are they
a bit chicken? A bit heartless? What do you think of the DTI in
energy R & D?
(Professor Hulme) From my point of view,
as Director of the Tyndall Centre, we have a very good relationship
with the DTI. The DTI support our activities in the Tyndall Centre.
114. You are not going to tell me the truth then;
what you think?
(Professor Hulme) No, I am telling you
the truth, Ian. And the truth is that we have a very good relationship
with the DTI. They have actually recognisedand I would
say that we have not received any core support from other government
departments, but we have received core support from the DTI because
they recognised actually that climate change and solutions to
climate change, particularly of course this potential for new
energy technologies, is something that is going to impact on British
business and industry. They wanted, and that is why they have
invested in a core post in our centre, to improve the flow of
information, the communication between our research and business
and industry across the UK. So on that point, I would say that
the DTI have recognised the strategic importance of this issue
and have supported our activities. Of course, there are other
dimensions to DTI in relation to having a management support various
emerging energy technologies. Again, I will leave either Alister
or Jim to give a more detailed comment. But again, let me give
one example where again the DTI are taking active measures, again
in conjunction with the Tyndall Centre, to look at one of these
potential new technologies which will help to decarbonise our
society, which is carbon sequestration. Basically stripping carbon
out of waste flumes and sinking that carbon into geological aquifers.
Now there are many different perspectives on that technology and
we are researching those. We are doing that partly in conjunction
with the DTI. So I give you two positive examples where the DTI
is actively engaged with the sort of research that we are doing.
115. So you would not say they were risk averse,
in management jargon? They are prepared to go along some research
that is in the "blue skies" arena?
(Professor Hulme) I would ask either
Alister or Jim to comment on that.
(Mr Scott) If I can answer this by partly rewinding
to your first question which is; what is wrong with government
policy? In our submission we submitted a table, on the penultimate
page, which gives an international comparison of UK investments
in energy R & D. If you normalise these for populations, it
gives you a more meaningful comparison between the UK and its
main competitors. Roughly speaking, the United Kingdom is currently
spending about one dollar per head on energy R & D. Compare
that with Germany, which is spending three and a half dollars
per head, the United States, which is spending eight, France,
which is spending 11 (admittedly much of it on nuclear fusion
and fission) and Japan, which is spending 30 dollars. So these
countries are spending fully three and a half, eight, 11 and 30
times roughly what the UK is spending per head on energy R &
D. So that gives you some kind of idea of the scale of the difference
of the investment that the UK is making compared to our international
116. But you see the point of my question is
to find out where that decision is being made how much to put
in. Is it the DTI? Who is it? Government is a strange organism.
(Mr Scott) I do not think that is something
that we could easily answer.
117. That is fine, okay. You had your chance.
(Professor Hulme) The example I gave
before is about the proposal for a new energy centre, which would
be through the science budget. So in that case it would actually
be managed in the end by the research councils on behalf of OST.
118. Just a quick one about the Carbon Trust.
Tell me about the policies and funding of that, if you have any
view on it. Any one of you would do. How it is working out, in
(Dr Watson) I will let them speak for
themselves next week.
(Professor Hulme) They are due to come here, is that
right, next week?
119. Yes, they are coming next week.
(Professor Hulme) My perceptionand
I do not speak with any great authority, I mean I have observed
from a distance how they have been developing their strategy in
the last 12 months. It seems to have been rather slow to actually
get off the ground, but my perception is that the primary focus
of their investment is going to be through this low carbon innovation
programme that has been established which, as I understand it,
will attempt to focus on the demonstration part of the chain,
if you like, in between research to full deployment. My only question
about that would be the extent to which there are appropriate
organisations, either in the public or private sector, that could
actually receive that money and effectively use it for either
small scale or large scale demonstration; whether actually the
capacity in Britain is there to absorb that hundred million pounds
(Mr Scott) If that is seen to be the main UK investment
in energy related R, D & D and it is concentrating mainly
on the latter D, demonstration, that would seem not to compensate
for the comparative lack with our international competitors that
I have just spoken about.