Government launches £102m fund for clean energy research

The UK Government has launched a £102.5m investment programme in a bid to tackle the challenges the UK faces as the renewables revolution continues, suggesting that the nation's energy sector could soon be poised to take clean power sources mainstream.

The joint BEIS, Innovate UK and UK Research and Innovation initiative, which forms part of the Industrial Strategy, was completed on Wednesday (May 23) with the finalisation of plans for a new research network focusing on decarbonising the nation’s energy sector. 

The consortium accompanies funding for strategic research projects that address industry-led challenges in the development of local, investable, consumer-centred clean energy approaches, including the creation of up to three local energy systems demonstrators that could be ready for new consumer energy systems by the 2020s.

UK Research and Innovation chief executive Sir Mark Walport said the investment, called the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, will create “new commercial solutions that benefit consumers through reduced bills; that drive economic growth through new businesses and high-value jobs, and that do this at a reduced environmental cost”.

Areas of opportunity that could be addressed through the fund, which will be awarded competitively, include energy storage, heat decarbonisation and the stabilisation of smart grids.

Energy revolution

The year so far has proved to be an stimulating period for renewable energy in the UK, with solar power making more electricity than nuclear for the first time and a further record being broken as the nation ran without coal power for three consecutive days.

The UK also climbed three places in a ranking of the world’s most attractive renewable energy markets for investors earlier this month. That’s despite clean energy investment having dropped by 56% in 2017 following a series of green policy changes, with annual investment now at its lowest in a decade. While this is due in part to renewables becoming more affordable as technologies are scaled up, MPs have dubbed the collapse in investment “dramatic and worrying”.

Sarah George

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