|Rolls-Royce consortium concept Small Modular Reactor facility|
- Increase ambition in demonstrating complex and high capital cost technologies
- Create new markets to catalyse early deployment and move towards widespread commercialisation
- Use concurrent innovations, such as digital technologies, to improve system efficiency and make new products more accessible and attractive to customers.
- Use existing or new institutions to accelerate critical innovation areas and co-ordinate early stage deployment.
- Harness trusted voices to build consumer acceptance.
- Align innovation policy in such a way that it strengthens the UK’s industrial advantages and increases knowledge spill overs between businesses and sectors
- On track: Solar PV and Bioenergy;
- Need remedial action: Renewable power, Onshore wind, Offshore wind, Hydropower and Natural gas-fired power;
- Off track: Geothermal, Concentrating solar power, Ocean, Nuclear power, Coal-fired power and CCUS in power.
Now, not all are equally critical but there are systemic dependencies so that the full benefit of net-zero carbon energy generation can be delivered through efficient power transmission with capacity for storage. Obviously the problem with coal fired power is that we are still using too much of it and this can only be solved by replacement technologies. For wind the key problem is not primarily technical, although there are improvements to be made, but regulation, planning and consultation. In those areas that are difficult to de-carbonise there will need to be compensating carbon capture technology. In nuclear technical work to increase modularisation and scalability is required as well safety and security by design. The major objections to nuclear of waste, safety, security and cost are being addressed but efforts must continue.
We need a short to medium term boost in funding to achieve the needed acceleration. This could be provided as a dividend from imposing a carbon tax or other robust form of carbon pricing. As well as providing revenue for R&D it also provides a steering mechanism because the tax will help correct for the failure of the energy market and provide path to exploitation for the innovations. Speed of exploitation remains a challenge with a quagmire of regulations, permissions and consultations to wade through in addition to the technical challenges that are always present in scaling up form proof of concept to operational system. Eventually an emergency situation will require emergency powers but climate change is a slow motion emergency both in the climatic development in response to increased green house gas concentration and in the climates response to mitigation. In the end it will come down to whether there is the social and political will to carry through an emergency response.