Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 50

Supplementary memorandum from the Institution of Engineering & Technology

  A1.  This addendum addresses the new questions posed by the IUS Committee or points to where the answers are to be found within the IET's previous evidence (memorandum 39).

  A2.  References in this Addendum refer to paragraph numbers within the IET's evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee submitted in July 2007.

The current state of UK research and development in, and the deployment of, renewable electricity-generation technologies

  A3.  Please refer to paragraphs 5—10 and Table 1.

International collaboration

  A4.  As the UK has some of the best renewable resources (wind and marine) in the world plus a very strong research base, we ought to be able to use this as leverage to grow the renewables sector in the UK. Much of the research being carried out here is not delivering outputs directly to UK manufacturing industry because that sector is weak. The UK should be able to add more value by working more closely with international partners. There would seem to be an opportunity to market our research capabilities internationally.

  A5.  In terms of technology areas, the UK should avoid replicating research carried out in other parts of the world, but should focus on adding value where it is best positioned and on resolving the local integration of global technologies. The UK remains a leading player in electrical systems design and operations, and exploits this overseas through UK consultancies. Support should thus be targeted at this area and those technologies where the UK has actual or potential industrial capability or can demonstrate a unique advantage, such as marine power. (from bullet 1 of para 17)

  A6.  Government needs to be more successful at leveraging support from the private sector and developing international partnerships for demonstration projects, particularly in the case of large scale capital intensive technologies which have the potential to make a significant impact (eg wave and tidal technologies). Demonstration is costly and will only make an impact on the total UK and global position if it is undertaken on a significant scale, and followed by full-scale roll-out. The resources required will be substantial particularly for large scale technologies, but there is scope for sharing them with the private sector and international partners under the right arrangements. (from para 21)

  A7.  See also Paragraphs 18 and 19.

Public funding, and other support, for the development of renewable electricity-generation technologies and incentives for technology transfer

  A8.  Please refer to paragraphs 11-24.

The establishment and role of the Energy Technologies Institute

  A9.  The resources required will be substantial particularly for large scale technologies, but there is scope for sharing them with the private sector and international partners under the right arrangements. The Energy Technologies Institute and the Environmental Transformation Fund announced in recent Budget rounds could provide the basis for such arrangements. It is disappointing that several months after their respective announcements, the arrangements and funding for these institutions remain largely unknown to industry at large. Parliament should monitor their development and seek to ensure that they fulfil their promised roles. (from para 21 of the IET's July submission)

Commercialising renewable technologies

  A10.  Please refer to paragraphs 8-10.

Intermittency of supply and connection with the national grid

  A11.  A considerable amount of work has been done to assess the impact of an increasing contribution from intermittent generation. We understand that National Grid has expressed confidence that it can continue to operate the system securely at much higher penetrations than we have today. However, we believe that measures should be put in place, to ensure that the actual impact of intermittent generation should be carefully monitored as its contribution increases. This will provide invaluable feedback and much better understanding of the complex interactions between intermittent generation and the total system. It should help to identify any unexpected challenges before they become material.

  A12.  Of particular importance is the provision of reserve generating capacity to respond to the fluctuations in output from intermittent generation. This generation is almost certain to be fossil-fired and its use can only reduce the environmental benefits that renewable generation brings. It may well be that the case for energy storage and demand side management strengthens considerably in the next few years and the UK should be in a position to develop and exploit solutions such as these in readiness.

Government policy towards enabling existing technologies to meet targets

  A13.  The technology banding regime proposed in the Energy White Paper was designed to encourage newer technologies to come to market, whilst reducing the rewards to certain existing technologies that are close to being competitive without further support. The key area here is offshore wind, as this is expected to make the largest contribution to achievement of targets, and the proposed level of support is 1.5 ROCs/MWh, compared to 1.0 ROCs/MWh for onshore wind.

  A14.  We believe the response of developers to offshore wind is showing the emerging maturity of this sector, but that a number of problems and risks remain, for example turbine reliability, costs and supply chain availability, and the challenges of large scale deployment offshore. Some of these may improve with time (eg offshore turbine reliability) as learning takes place, but other risks could increase, for example construction and operational risk in ever deeper waters.

  A15.  We recommend therefore that particular attention is given to the proposed arrangements set out in paragraph 5.3.39 of the White Paper to review the banding arrangements in a transparent way.

  A16.  Please see in addition paragraph 13 of the IET's July 2007 submission.

Whether the UK has the skills base to underpin the development of renewable technology

  A17.  Government must ensure that policies designed to promote renewables do not founder on a lack of skills to implement them. There will need to be a steady supply of a skilled workforce to devise, design, install and maintain renewable technologies as they come forward. There is currently significant concern on the part of employers that the supply of skills will not be adequate or suitable in coming years to meet their demand for technical personnel. This concern extends to all levels of education and qualification, from technicians to experienced professional engineers and advanced researchers.[204] Government will need to keep a watching brief on developments in this area in partnership with industry, and be prepared to intervene if necessary. (paragraph 23 of the IET's July 2007 submission)

January 2008

204   For a review of recent surveys, see Energy Research Partnership (2007) Investigation into High Level Skills Shortages in the Energy Sector: Back

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