Memorandum submitted by the Building Research
BRE is the UK's leading centre of expertise
on buildings, construction, energy, environment, fire and risk,
and provides research, consultancy and information services to
BRE welcomes the opportunity to present written
evidence to this S&T Committee enquiry.
Our contribution focuses on the issues associated
with achieving carbon savings in the built environment. With buildings
accounting for nearly 50% of UK carbon emissions it is essential
that an adequate investment is made in relevant RD&D. Of particular
importance is the need to develop the next generation of technologies
and techniques associated with achieving cost effective energy
savings in existing buildings, and to facilitate market development
and technology transfer.
The sections below provide a response which
addresses the Committee's Terms of Reference:
1. To evaluate the level of expenditure on
RD&D in non-carbon energy technologies, by UK government,
the Research Councils, the Carbon Trust and industry, and where
it is being directed.
Our greatest concern is the substantial reduction
of underpinning research previously funded by the DOE/DETR/DEFRA/DTI
associated with low carbon (and non-carbon) buildings related
technologies and techniques. Recent changes to departmental research
responsibilities have resulted in a situation where very little
underpinning research is being undertaken in the UK. Furthermore,
possible sources of funding are now highly fragmented and invariably
require matching funding from industry, which is often difficult
(or impossible) to obtain. It is difficult to motivate industry
into investing in R&D unless there is a clear policy framework
in place, that will develop a promising market.
2. To identify which technologies are, or
should be, receiving support, and how much investment is directed
at research, development and demonstration respectively.
The following provides an indication of the
technologies which should be receiving support:
energy efficiency measure/technologies
(eg thin insulation for solid wall house);
passive renewables (UK has world
lead which we are in danger of losing/not exploiting);
products/technologies which not only
offer carbon reduction but can also enhance health/quality of
life (eg ventilation heat recovery); and
building integrated active renewables
New technologies should be considered in a holistic
manner to include the broader environmental impacts (eg carbon
neutrality/embodied energy, etc).
3. To assess the skills base and the state
of RD&D for different technologies.
The under-funding by Government and its agencies
of this vital area of research has resulted in a chronic shortage
of appropriately qualified researchers and technology transfer
specialists. This will only be remedied if Government recognises
the need to provide financial support to enable relevant underpinning
research to be undertaken in the UK.
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 no UK national debate, clarity or logic
associated with the strategic RD&D research priorities for
buildings-related low/no carbon technologies. This has resulted
in a lack of policy coherence. A real need exists to establish
much greater co-ordination and energy related RD&D policy
formulation between DEFRA, ODPM, DEI, DA's, Carbon Trust, Energy
Saving Trust, RDA's and the Research Councils.
5. To establish the level of and rationale
for international collaboration in energy RD&D and how priorities
Very little international collaboration is currently
taking place between the UK and overseas. The UK has recently
withdrawn funding for a number of important international collaborative
research programmes, such as the IEA Energy Conservation in Buildings
and Community System Implementing Agreement and the IEA Solar
Heating and Cooling Implementing Agreement. Neither DEFRA nor
the Carbon Trust (or any other Government Department or Agency)
accepts responsibility for funding these extremely important areas
of activity. The consequences for the UK will be the loss of important
technology transfer opportunities and reduced market intelligence
associated with energy technologies and/or best practice in other
countries. The UK will also lose the benefit of the significant
financial gearing (on a comparatively small national investment)
which involvement in major international collaborative R&D
6. To examine the effect on energy RD&D
of privatisation, liberalisation, regulation and changes in ownership
in the sector.
Privatisation of the gas and electricity utilities
has resulted in a catastrophic loss of a number of major centres
of expertise in the UK associated with energy utilisation research.
Energy price reductions, although advantageous to the economy,
have had the effect of reducing interest in developing new energy
sources and improving energy efficiency (market future).
The electricity research centre at Capenhurst
(EA Technology) now undertakes very little fundamental research
with their Energy in Buildings Division having been disbanded
about five years ago.
The gas research centre at Loughborough (Advantica)
has been similarly affected by reduced funding within the gas
supply sector. It is important to note that Energy utilities currently
have no obligation or incentive to fund energy utilisation research
and we strongly recommend that consideration should be given to
placing a requirement on energy suppliers to fund a minimum level
of research within the Energy Efficiency Commitment (EEC). If
10% of the national EEC expenditure was invested in energy efficiency
utilisation related RD&D about £10-15 million of additional
funding would be available to stimulate the development of the
next generation of energy saving technologies and techniques,
7. To make comparisons with overseas competitors.
Our major competitors (principally in Europe)
are able to readily access funding from Government agencies for
the purpose of matching EU research funding. As stated in paragraph
five. above, UK collaboration with overseas countries is woeful.
Our inability to network internationally and/or benefit from international
collaborative research is also damaging our competitiveness in
an area of technological development having major export growth
Our overseas competitors appear to achieve much
greater "critical mass" in the development of new low/no
carbon technologies. It is interesting to compare the development
of wind power in Denmark and of photo-voltaic technology in Germany
with our largely ineffectual research activity in the UK over
the same period. Our comparatively weak position and lack of commercially
exploitable technologies is the result of a plethora of small
(sub-critical) inadequately funded schemes having little or no