Energy efficiency must be Industrial Strategy priority, engineers say

The engineering industry has today (24 April) called for the Government's Industrial Strategy to prioritise energy efficiency to ensure limited energy costs for businesses.

The engineering sector claims an integrated solution to energy policy can be achieved through available technologies such as offshore wind, district heating and biomethane plants

The engineering sector claims an integrated solution to energy policy can be achieved through available technologies such as offshore wind, district heating and biomethane plants

In a report produced by an alliance of 35 institutions, which represent 450,000 engineering professionals, the Government is urged to take a whole system approach to energy policy that addresses the needs of businesses, while reducing emissions and ensuring security and resilience.

British engineers believe that improving energy efficiency, particularly in buildings and energy networks, is the single most important area for ministers to focus on in the Industrial Strategy, an accompanying survey of the profession found.

Energy Institute chief executive Louise Kingham said: “Energy and climate change policies are integral to the UK’s future prosperity. They present significant economic opportunities as well as risks that need to be managed.

“The message from the engineering community is clear. If the Government’s industrial strategy is to make the most of the opportunities it should have greater energy efficiency and a system wide approach at its heart. And the policies adopted must be credible over the long term, to provide industry with the confidence needed to sustain investment and jobs in energy technologies and infrastructure.”

Holistic approach

The report maintains that energy policy has historically been approached in silos, with a separate taken approach on environment, security and cost, which has resulted in policies which work against each other.  

An integrated energy solution can be achieved through available technologies such as offshore wind, district heating and biomethane plants, the study claims. The Government is also urged to provide support for tidal power, which is noted as the most important renewable power source due to its huge potential and reliability.

The engineering community specifically calls for carbon capture and storage (CCS) to be put back on the agenda, warning that the UK’s departure from coal-fired power offers only a small time-period to harness CCS before it is lost to competition. A full-scale demonstration plant should be developed, the report states, with further research to build a greater understanding of the technology’s commercial viability.

According to the report, better incentives are required to drive heating efficiency savings in the UK’s existing building stock, in addition to stricter building regulations on energy efficiency. It also recommends introducing an Energy Saving Incentive (ESI) scheme that pays out for demonstrated energy saving.

Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) IChemE energy centre chair Professor Stefaan Simons said: "In a time of uncertainty, the one thing that is certain is the need for the UK to move to a low-carbon economy. A holistic and long-term view of energy generation and energy use is essential to support a successful UK economy, healthy society and tackle wider global issues including climate change."

Industrial efficiency

The engineering sector joins a host of industry bodies that have called on the Government's forthcoming Industrial Strategy to support business efforts to embrace renewable technologies. In a joint letter to Business Secretary Greg Clark last week, organisations including the Renewable Energy Association (REA), RenewableUK and the Solar Trade Association (STA) highlighted how the low-carbon sector can provide significant benefits to the UK economy.

The industry claims energy efficiency is an issue of particular importance for the Government to address in the Industrial Strategy, with energy used for heating and powering the UK’s non-domestic buildings responsible for around 12% of the country’s emissions. 

The recent publication of the Government's own guidance about the new minimum efficiency standard for privately rented commercial buildings was welcomed by industry for providing "vital clarity" to businesses.

An independent review into energy efficiency and home renewable energy measures was launched in December to call for greater consumer protection through a new framework and quality mark. The Bonfield review was launched in June 2015 by Government after the Green Deal scheme was closed.

George Ogleby


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