Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 15

Memorandum submitted by the British Wind Energy Association

1.  To evaluate the level of expenditure on R&D in non-carbon energy technologies, by the UK Government, the Research Councils, the Carbon Trust and industry and where it is being directed

  UK state support for R&D in onshore wind has largely ceased. Limited research fundings are available for wind power in the UK through EPSRC, and an even more limited amount through the DTI New & Renewable Energies Programme, including £1.2 million directed to offshore wind and a further £74 million in the shape of capital grants. What monies are available tend not to be directed towards pure RD&D.

  Turbine manufacturers do have their own in-house RD&D programmes, but these will be aimed at their own products and take place, in the main, outside the influence of UK factors.

  Were RD&D funding available through UK initiatives, we feel that this would help attract manufacturing base back to the UK, which itself would have beneficial effects on the necessary skills level and workforce envisaged for the future wind industry. By way of example, we would cite the instance of Taywood Aerolaminates, a UK company involved in the manufacture of wind turbine blades. DTI RD&D funding allowed this company to become so firmly established in the UK that when a takeover occurred, it was a natural choice that the company and its expertise remain in the UK. The new company, NEG Micon Rotors, are now the largest employers in the UK wind industry.

2.  To identify which technologies are, or should be, receiving support and how much investment is directed at research, development and demonstration respectively

  Much is expected of the UK wind industry, and in particular, the offshore sector. The dramatic rate of growth necessary to achieve such aspirations will require support from all quarters, including the maintenance of a solid bedrock research community.

  BWEA would also note that although wind energy is a relatively commercially mature industry compared to other renewable technologies in the UK, it is still a fledgling industry and as such there is a need for continued fundamental research to achieve projected costs savings and performance improvements, vital to maintain the viability of the wind industry. Such ongoing R&D includes whole life, accelerated durability and longevity testing, and developing and accrediting dependable systems for predicting output over various timescales.

  Specific to the onshore sector, co-generation opportunities should be identified, such as biodiesel, and hybrid wind-solar systems, together with better technology to maximise low wind speed areas.

  Looking specifically offshore, foundation designs for wind turbines need to be developed and tested for different seabed conditions; oil, gas and hydropower generation offshore could be combined and transported onshore and technologies need to be developed and integrated to ensure the UK becomes the leader in hybrid wind and hydrogen power.

  Furthermore, there a number of issues that are common to offshore wind, wave and tidal generation technologies. BWEA is working closely with colleagues in the wave and tidal industries to ensure a co-ordinated approach to the development of the offshore renewables sector, including RD&D requirements.

CommonWind-specific

Planning consentsSimulation of active electricity networks
Grid connectivity and embedded generation Risk reduction
InstallationFoundations
Electricity transmissionBlade fatigue
Environmental studiesTurbine reliability
Accessibility/Maintenance
O&M strategies
Wind resource and forecasting
Power transmission technologies


  The following matrix illustrates the priorities for RD&D spend both by the time period in which it takes place as well as the specific area (research or development) in which it is required.


Short term (1-2 years)
Medium term (2-5 years)
Long term (5+ years)

ResearchCondition monitoring Larger turbine designs, novel designs
DevelopmentPlanning consents, installation, foundations, risk reduction Environmental, embedded generation, monitoring of machines, reliability, wind forecasting Transmission options (eg hydrogen)

Note: Timescale is when the product is required and not when the RD&D should be carried out.


3.  To assess the skills base and the state of RD&D for different technologies

  The UK renewables industry is at risk of being hampered by the lack of engineering graduates and other qualified personnel. This could affect not only the capabilities for future expansion but could also result in the UK losing the early-mover advantage it currently holds in the field of marine renewable technologies. An active research presence in Universities and research institutes would ensure a steady stream of students equipped with up-to-date knowledge; these graduates will be a vital input into a rapidly growing industry.

  Furthermore, Britain has an excellent technology pool from its experiences over the last 30 years in oil and gas. Technology and personnel transfer from oil and gas and "sunset" industries into offshore renewables will be a key factor in the success of this new sector. Equally, "joined up thinking" and promotion of wind energy opportunities to UK companies that can be a part of a greater wind energy supply chain would also encourage any appropriate skills.

4.  To establish how Government policy on energy RD&D is formulated, implemented and evaluated and the nature of co-ordination between department, external agencies and industry

  There is a need for co-ordination in Government policy on energy RD&D between departments, agencies and industries. BWEA is in agreement with the recommendations of the PIU report, specifically that a dedicated national research centre be established to boost the profile of energy research and attract high calibre scientists into the field.

  However BWEA notes that such a centre will almost certainly be geographically distributed as it is hard to imagine a single site with the correct skills and infrastructure to carry out work on wind, wave and tidal energy as well as, for instance, the hydrogen economy.

  A wide-reaching industry forum (which BWEA would be pleased to assist in organising) to take soundings from the wind and related technologies would be a helpful activity.

5.  To establish the level of and rationale for international collaboration in energy RD&D and how the priorities are determined

  Notwithstanding EU-led RD&D programmes which require cross-boundary collaboration and tend towards demonstration rather than deployment, there is potential for RD&D through trade partnership with other countries.

  BWEA feels that international collaboration would be of benefit. Offshore renewables in particular has many trans-boundary issues, such as fisheries, navigation and impacts on birds. Equally, the needs and experiences of the different countries in RD&D, construction, maintenance, operations etc are very similar and should be shared wherever possible in order to minimise costs.

  BWEA believes that there is a potential need for a set of international technical standards for offshore wind farm construction and operation and that the adoption of such would be of significant value regarding issues of financing and insurance.

6.  To examine the effect on energy RD&D of privatisation, liberalisation, regulation and changes in ownership in the sector

  The overall effect of privatisation and liberalisation on energy RD&D has been very negative. RD&D budgets of privatised companies have shrunk dramatically; the emphasis is on the short term and this is exacerbated both by the demands of the stock market and a volatile energy market. In addition corporate RD&D is rarely associated with technologies (such as the hydrogen economy) that do not have near-term financial payoffs.

  There needs to be a greater funding focus directed towards the supply chain, for example, helping British companies to diversify current technologies, develop new technologies and plants and keep abreast of new technological advances.

7.  To make comparisons with overseas competitors

  BWEA is in broad agreement with the findings of the October 2001 IEA report on R&D in the Wind Energy Sector.[9] The study brought together 17 countries as well as the European Commission, to identify the appropriate level of wind energy research out to 2020.

  The report indicates that, although costs have already fallen dramatically, if wind energy is going to supply 10% of the world's electricity needs by 2020, cost reductions in the technology of 30%-50% are still necessary, which would enable wind power, particularly from the offshore sector, to be price-competitive with conventional generation technologies. The report notes that R&D work could contribute up to 40% of those cost reductions.

  BWEA also notes the findings of the Energy Research Review[10] specifically the table contained in Annex B: "International Government Expenditure on Energy R&D". Key data from this table is included below; the numbers speak for themselves. The UK is home to the greatest wind resource in Europe, if not the world, yet has the third lowest per capita R&D spend on renewables. Although DTI has announced that it intends to increase R&D spend in 2001 to £18 million;[11] on a per capita basis this represents only £0.31 and still leaves the UK well down in both European and international rankings. Such "back of the envelope" calculations take no account of the fact that the other countries are almost certain to have announced increases in their R&D budgets for renewables.


Year*
Total R&D Spend
£ million
Population
million
Per capita R&D spend
£

Portugal
1999
0.89
10.0
0.08
Belgium
1998
0.90
10.2
0.09
UK
1999
7.56
58.6
0.13
France
1999
8.78
58.7
0.14
Canada
1998
5.56
30.6
0.18
Spain
1999
13.22
39.6
0.33
Italy
1998
22.41
57.4
0.39
Germany
1999
48.19
82.1
0.58
USA
1999
170.67
274.0
0.62
Japan
1999
84.61
126.3
0.67
Austria
1998
6.97
8.1
0.86
Netherlands
1998
14.40
15.7
0.91
Sweden
1999
8.33
8.8
0.94
Norway
1999
4.58
4.5
1.02
Finland
1998
5.79
5.1
1.14
Denmark
1999
10.99
5.3
2.07

*R&D spend is shown for the most recent year available.

20 September 2002







9   "Long term research and development needs for wind energy for the time frame 2000 to 2020" IEA R&D Wind Executive Committee. October 2001. Back

10   Chief Scientific Adviser's Energy Research Review Group-recommendations to inform the PIU's Energy Policy Review. Undated. Back

11   DTI's New and Renewable Energy Policy Document. Section 3-Form of Support. Back


 
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