Defining the challenges for a low carbon future
The Energy Institute has published its 2017 Energy Barometer, presenting the views of UK energy professionals on the effectiveness of measures to reach emissions targets and transition energy supplies to sustainable sources. So what did the survey find? Looking at what measures the government should prioritise to reach emissions targets, 64% of respondents said energy efficiency, 62% supported increased emphasis on renewable energy and 60% supported emerging technology research and innovation. But there was less enthusiasm for decarbonising transport (38%) and nuclear energy (34%). Having said that, when asked what effect UK energy policy had had on various areas, a majority of respondents thought that government support for nuclear energy had had a positive effect.
Many measures to reach emissions targets will require investment from the private sector, but this is not helped when the government chops and changes policies and backs away from particular technologies. So, for example, while carbon capture and storage unarguably has potential, over a third of respondents thought it now carried a very high level of investment risk. Also thought to carry a significant risk were investment in hydrogen power, marine power, nuclear power and low carbon transport, with over 50% of respondents in each case feeling investment represented either a high risk or a very high risk. Factors cited in particular as limiting low carbon investment included policy uncertainty in respect of onshore wind, and technology readiness when it came to energy storage, hydrogen power and carbon capture.
Asked what one measure UK Government could implement to be more pro-innovation, 25% of respondents cited tax relief for R&D, while 24% thought an improvement in collaboration between business and academia would have the greatest impact. Other factors cited included improved public procurement (13%), funding competitions (10%), enabling private funding (9%), supporting competition (9%) and improving the digital infrastructure (4%).
Respondents also ranked the biggest energy challenges in 2017, putting energy policy first, low carbon energy second, and security of supply third. Investment cost was cited as the fourth biggest challenge, an Brexit reared its head at fifth. Other challenges identified included grid and infrastructure, international factors, public engagement, price volatility, and sustainability and climate change.
Mark Simms Editor