Submission from One NorthEast
1. Renewable Energy Technology is of considerable
significance to the economic development of North East England.
The region has a number of strengths in our businesses and universities
that are particularly suited to the development of renewable energy
2. Over recent years, these strengths have
enabled the development of innovative businesses in technologies
as diverse as wind, wave and tidal devices, biomass and biofuels,
photovoltaics, fuel cells, geothermal energy, the connection of
renewable energy to grid networks, microgeneration, the design
and engineering of renewable energy systems and the installation
of renewable energy systems.
3. Key to this growth, which is a major
driver of the region's current economic success, is focussed Research
4. Two particular features of the region's
approach to Renewable Energy Research and Development capacity
are particularly important:
The region has developed new facilities
and undertaken projects which are particularly concerned with
bridging the gap between university laboratories and full market
application, establishing a range of facilities and capabilities
which are leading in Europe.
The region has developed an approach
to renewable energy research and development that has successfully
integrated universities, development and testing facilities and
5. The region's approach is based on the
recognition in recent years that there have been a number of weaknesses
in the UK's infrastructure for Research and Development, and diffusion
and adoption of renewable energy technology.
6. The key weaknesses have been:
An absence of suitably scaled development,
testing and prototyping facilities, meaning that it was very difficult
for new technologies to be developed beyond the research stage.
An absence of engineering and application
oriented capabilities actively seeking to develop technologies
from the research stage to a stage whereby they could be adopted
by businesses for application.
A continuing weakening of close to
market product and technology development infrastructure, such
as performance verification testing.
Limited integration between research
organisations, including universities, technology based businesses,
and businesses seeking to apply new energy technologies.
An absence of reliable and independent
technical, project, financial and operational data among many
organisation potentially seeking to apply new renewable technologies.
7. There are many strengths in early stage
research for renewable energy technology. Also, networks, for
example those established by the Research Councils, have largely
overcome previous problems of fragmentation in research capacity.
There is also a range of financial sources and mechanisms to support
research and development. However, due to the weaknesses summarised
in Paragraph 6 above, which are largely related to capacity and
facilities at the translational research and development stage,
technologies are not being introduced at a sufficient pace or
scale into the market.
8. The region has addressed these weaknesses
by the establishment of NaREC (New and Renewable Energy Centre)
and CPI (Centre for Process Innovation). These are major new institutions
with significant capabilities and facilities.
9. Facilities developed by NaREC include
wind turbine blade testing, photovoltaics (based on former BP
R & D capacity), wave and tidal testing facilities, low voltage
network systems and high voltage network systems. These facilities
are located over three sites in North East England, with the major
site being at Blyth in Northumberland.
10. CPI have developed facilities to demonstrate
fuel cell systems and low energy processes, including through
the National Industrial Biotechnology Facility, which is hosted
and operated by CPI. A key element of their work is related to
the Process Industries, which are clearly major energy users in
the region and the UK as a whole.
11. Other organisations which have been
developing major research and development projects for renewable
energies are Renew Tees Valley, including energy from waste and
carbon capture and storage, TWI, which is developing REMTEC (Renewable
Energy Manufacturing Technology Centre), and Newcastle Science
City, which has Energy and Environment as one of its major themes.
12. In addition, the region's universities
are developing technologies in key areas of renewable energy as
well as engineering and design capability. One innovative example
is the work led by Newcastle University, which is also involving
community groups, local authorities, businesses and the RDA, to
develop Geothermal based communities.
13. Critically, these different elements
operate as part of an integrated network, working with a range
of businesses and international partners. They are supported by
a range of infrastructure, including financial providers, intellectual
property advisers and skills developers.
14. We welcome the establishment of the
Energy Technology Institute. We believe that it could provide
a very effective focal point for bringing technologies to a condition
of near market readiness. We would strongly suggest that the ETI
focuses on translational research and relatively near to market
development. We would urge the ETI to take maximum advantage of
existing facilities, including those within energy using businesses,
to develop and demonstrate technologies in a "near real"
15. We also suggest that, overall, much
progress has been made with early stage research, and that Government,
universities, businesses and others should focus their efforts
on the further development of technologies to the application
stage. In many cases, the key is to demonstrate potential value
in order to achieve scale and consequently reduced unit costs,
such that cost differentials for renewable technologies relative
to other energy technologies are substantially reduced or removed
entirely. In this respect, the work of Community Energy Solutions
in respect of Heat Pumps is particularly illustrative.
16. We would also suggest that attention
is paid to disseminating the results of projects already completed
to potential funders and project developers. Support for the establishment
of project development and operational approaches, for example
project philosophies, commercial models and implementation procedures
for offshore wind turbines, would be of considerable advantage.
17. We particularly suggest that the opportunities
and technical and non-technical requirements for distributed energy
schemes, including community owned systems, is examined, recognising
the importance of such approaches to the adoption of renewable
18. Overall, we emphasis that the UK has
a great opportunity to make a very substantial contribution to
climate change and to develop new industries, through the development
and application of technologies for renewable energy. Many of
these technologies have already been identified and researched.
The challenge now is develop them further to a point of actual
application, and to do so in a manner that reduces unit costs.