With the future of our energy landscape set to be a hot topic in the run-up to next year’s general election, it’s no surprise that resource infrastructure was a key theme in the recent Autumn Statement announcement. However, David Casale, director of Turquoise International – a merchant bank specialising in energy and the environment – believes the message still left many questions unanswered and calls for more clarification into the prioritisation of technologies in the energy sector.
“Despite outlining a number of new investment programmes and some interesting insight into a variety of national energy developments, a high percentage of the energy spending plans proposed in the recent Autumn Statement seem to be focused solely towards the identification and exploration of shale gas reserves,” commented Casale.
“In fact, with more than £5m in research alone allocated to shale reserves, alongside £31m allocated to the development of sub-surface test centres, the government’s prioritisation of shale gas seems clear. Whilst understandable from a balance of payments perspective, reports show that it will have little effect on gas prices – freeze or no freeze. Beyond this, there seems very little progress to note since last year’s statement, with key questions remaining unanswered, presumably until post-election, on the future of our energy technology mix.
“It’s disappointing that the government did not take the opportunity to provide further clarity on proposed routes to funding new and innovative energy projects in the sector, with the requirement to achieve an affordable energy sector. The issues of security, diversity and reliability of energy supply remain the primary challenge for society as a whole, not just the politicians.
“Although shale gas and carbon capture provides a powerful and viable large scale solution for our national energy demands, we must look to the future and support more distributed technologies to properly innovate and tackle the challenges of tomorrow.
“The UK is a hub for energy innovation, with thousands of businesses nationwide actively developing new technologies to create affordable solutions that, at the same time, deliver clean, safe and (where possible) renewable energy. These mustn’t be forgotten. Industries such as electricity storage and tidal power, for example, need to overcome significant supply chain barriers to reach an affordable solution for the needs of our children in the near future and, therefore, need greater support and funding. In both cases, return on tax spend has been poor and a new more structured approach might be needed. Markets need support where there are imperfections and in both these cases this seems to be the case.
“Investment alone, however, isn’t the answer. We need greater government involvement and support to engender a real culture of innovation and success in Britain’s technology and industrial sectors. Looking at education from primary level, leadership groups, technology roadmaps, the catapult programme and consistent development standards alongside an active community of supportive innovators, will definitely help us on this long journey.
“This is where we need to communicate with society in a transparent way. Shale gas is great, but is not a low-carbon solution. Technology innovation must be supported, but not in a scattergun way. Society looks to its government to lead the way and we need a clear recognition that the easily accessible, ‘quick-fix’ solutions are just that. Only then can we claim a place at the table of global energy innovation and embrace new and innovative approaches to tackle the energy demands of tomorrow.”
Adapted from press release by Joe Green
Read the article online at: https://www.hydrocarbonengineering.com/refining/12122014/autumn-statement-questions-unanswered-prioritisation-technologies-energy-sector-115/