Submission from Advantage West Midlands
Areas under consideration
1. The current state of UK R&D in, and
deployment of, renewable energy generation technologies including
offshore wind, photovoltaics, hydrogen and fuel cell technologies,
wave, tidal, bio energy, ground source heat pumps and intelligent
grid management and energy storage.
The West Midlands Region has strong innovation
capabilities applicable to these technologies. While the picture
is not even across them, these capabilities are generally competitive
at international level and are contained in a mix of both business
and academic assets. The regional picture was assessed in a study
undertaken by Birmingham University for the regional Innovation
and Technology Council, a copy of which is included with this
submission supported by an "inventory" of academic capability.
2. The feasibility, costs, timescales and
progress in commercialising renewable technologies as well as
their reliability and associated carbon footprints.
The commercialisation of renewable technologies
does pose particular problems; the Region has two demonstration
units in renewable energy and this response draws on the regional
experience with these two projects, as follows:
This proejct involves the construction of a
technology pathfinder renewable energy power plant fuelled from
a locally grown miscanthus (elephant grass) supply chain. This
Provide a significant farm diversification
Support regional objectives by allowing
the creation of a regional supply chain around the technology
supplier, also a regional company.
Make a direct contribution to carbon
reduction in the Region.
AWM funding has been used to supplement DTI
Funding, via the New & Renewable Energy Scheme, and private
sector funding. The private sector contribution is in the majority.
The project is now in commissioning stages.
This project proposes the construction of an
advanced waste disposal facility to handle food waste generated
in Ludlow. This project will:
Develop an anaerobic digestion plant
capable of treating 5,000 tonnes a year of biodegradable wastes
in South Shropshire and producing renwable electricity together
with a directly usable fertiliser.
Establish the operation of this site
in a community company to provide waste management services and
renewable energy generation in South Shropshire.
Provide access to the site so that
it can serve as a national demonstrator.
Give a firm platform for a regional
supply chain to take advantage of this emerging marketplace.
The project was led by South Shropshire District
Council working in conjunction with Greenfinch Ltd, a regional
technology provider. The project is also supported by DEFRA, through
the Waste Implementation Programme. This project is now established
Experience with these projects indicates that:
The commercialisation process does
need to recognise a distinct deployment phase, where new technologies
can build meaningful experience that will allow them to enter
highly structure and risk averse markets on something like equal
terms with more established offerings.
Demonstration in this area tends
to encounter barriers with processes for electrical connection
and for planning, where there scale and nature present "out
of the ordinary" challenges to the process.
Support for this aspect of the innovation process
is emerging as a key consideration in achieving success.
3. The UK Government's role in funding research
and development for renewable energy generation technologies and
providing incentives for technology transfer and industrial research
The two projects described above together with
a further DTI supported industrial R&D project, connected
with generation technologies for renewable energy, all have substantial
UK Government support. This support has been essential in achieving
the considerable progress that has been made in terms of both
the deployment of renewable technologies and in the building of
supply chains for these technologies. While the grant application
process can be demanding, the schemes themselves are seen as an
essential part of the landscape.
4. Other possible technologies for renewable
Selected Waste to Energy technologies could
usefully be added the scope of the inquiry. This technology poses
very similar issues to other renewables but with a significant
added complication in that the typical framework of deployment,
via PFI projects of substantial scale, adds further to the issues
As a more general point, the focus on renewable
energy tends to fall on electricity generation. Renewable heat
technologies (including combined heat and power) also have a role
Available at office:
1. Report "Energy Strengths in the
2. Listing of academic resources in energy
3. Presentation "Energy Strengths
in the West Midlands".