Six Innovation Areas Could Drive Renewable Energy Future

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Government innovation spending could deliver a world-leading energy system – if £500 million of allocated funds are targeted correctly, a new paper from industry body Scottish Renewables has said.

The organisation’s report identified six key innovation areas, and called on the UK Government to work with industry to help guide investment to deliver a low-carbon, low-cost energy sector.Hannah Smith, Policy Officer at Scottish Renewables, said: “The UK Government’s commitment to double the spend on energy innovation to £500 million over five years has the potential to drive dramatic advances in our energy system.

“Scottish Renewables’ new paper highlights the importance of the strategic allocation of these funds, and identifies six technology areas that have real potential to benefit from this funding, propelling British business to the forefront of a truly world-leading, next-generation energy system.”

Scottish Renewables, which is calling for half of all energy used in Scotland to come from renewables by 2030, published the new report to examine the future of our energy system across electricity, heat and transport.

The priority areas identified are:

  • Wave and Tidal energy – at which the UK already leads the world, with facilities like the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney providing cutting-edge test opportunities;
  • Storage technologies – which can enable increased renewables capacity (by storing electricity at times of low demand) and provide a multitude of services to the management of our electricity system, as well as empowering communities and consumers;
  • Floating Offshore Wind – which could open huge areas of the world’s deepest oceans to green energy generation. The UK is eyeing a global lead already, and funds invested on innovation could cement that advantage;
  • Low-Carbon Heat – which accounts for 46% of UK energy demand, but of which only 4.9% was renewable in 2014. Decarbonising the sector will mean fully developing new technologies, supporting their large-scale deployment and integrating them into our wider energy system.
  • Systems Integration – thinking about our heat, transport and electricity sectors as one system will allow us to be ‘smarter’ in the way we use power and drive efficiencies, increase security and reduce costs;
  • Flexible networks – could, according to the Committee on Climate Change, help save consumers up to £3.5 billion per year. Securing the technology to deliver what the CCC call “a more flexible power system” will require a range of technologies such as Active Network Management, demand-side response, storage and increased interconnection, all of which are yet to be fully developed.

Scottish Renewables’ Hannah Smith continued: “Our renewable energy industry has come a long way since the first hydropower and wind projects of the 19th Century, due in no small part to the impressive list of technical and engineering innovations coming out of the UK.

“We welcome the Chancellor’s recent commitment to continue this by doubling DECC’s innovation programme budget. We believe developing an Energy Innovation Strategy to guide this investment would get the most out of every pound spent.

“Government is in a unique position to mobilise a variety of resources and agencies, creating the right landscape for innovation to occur. This would lay the foundations for British businesses developing innovative products and services to flourish.

“Our world lead in tidal technology, for example, owes much to the continued development of onshore wind, with technology for the former deriving from decades of study into the latter.

“Now new technologies like wave energy and storage have the potential to revolutionise the way we produce energy.”