Amber Rudd: Innovation holds key to solving energy trilemma

The UK's 'energy trilemma' of low carbon, security of supply and energy prices will only be solved through innovation, but that innovation is dependent on continued support and investment.

So said Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd in her keynote speech at a Cleantech Innovate event on Thursday.

“I’m clear that solving the so-called energy ‘trilemma’ will only be achieved with the help of innovation, paving the way for tomorrow’s deployment of important technologies, some of which may not even have been invented yet,” said Rudd.

“Industry… are the major force in driving energy innovation forwards. Whilst Government’s role is an enabling one, designed to address market failures and barriers that deter industry activity, break-through concepts are frequently designed and developed through collaboration with industry.

“So, collaboration is key, and I would like to encourage imaginative partnering across the innovation landscape.”

Low-carbon calls

In her speech, Rudd gave future certainty for DECC’s energy innovation budget, with £60m earmarked for next year. The fourth round of DECC’s Energy Entrepreneurs’ Fund, which is specifically targeted at Small and Medium Enterprises, is also being extended by an additional £5m from the original £35m. 

Meanwhile, Innovate UK will be running three low-carbon energy calls in February and March worth up to £13.5m to tackle the problems of extracting value from waste, extending the whole-life performance of buildings and the production of cleaner and more efficient fossil fuels.

Energy Minister Matt Hancock is also set to make an announcement later this month about the first round of the Energy Catalyst, which will see nearly £25m invested in  40 projects to help speed the development process of energy innovations.

The UK has seen over £1bn investment allocated to low-carbon innovation through major public sector funders since 2011, helping the UK rank second in the Global Innovation Index by Cornell University last year.

Rudd added that by the end of this parliament DECC will have contributed £200m to supporting technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage, bioenergy, offshore wind and building innovations, and supported 200 UK companies including 70 (SME) through its Energy Entrepreneurs Fund.

In July last year the European Environment Agency said in a report that eco-innovation faces ‘major financial barriers’ across the EU as 60% of SMEs say they have ‘insufficient’ access to subsidies and incentives.

Financial Incentive

Collaboration with industry has so far been key to driving innovation forward, according to Rudd. She described the collaboration opportunities as ‘limitless’ and wants to encourage imaginative partnering across industry.

Speaking exclusively to edie last month, Richard miller of Innovate UK said 2015 will be the year for innovation, and expects to see a big increase in the number of collaborations and research and development projects happening.

“Collaboration is essential – some of Innovate UK’s programmes have specifically targeted collaborative R&D projects; bringing groups of businesses together to ensure there is a profit at every stage in a closed-loop system, so that everybody has an incentive to play the game.” Miller said.

Chris Sherwin, head of sustainability at Seymourpowell said companies must adopt an ‘innovation mind-set’ to prepare for an increasingly uncertain future. The best form of attack against volatile raw material prices, international conflict and global warming is innovation, Sherwin said.

Innovation Zone at Sustainability Live 2015 

For the first time, edie will be hosting an Innovation Zone at Sustainability Live 2015 to showcase the best emerging, pre-commercialised sustainability solutions.  

We are looking for emerging products, technologies and solutions in the energy, waste, water and cleantech space which are yet to be commercialised but have reached trial or prototype stage.  

Find out more about the new Innovation Zone here and register to attend Sustainability Live 2015 for free here.

Lucinda Dann

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