Renew On Line (UK) 60

Extracts from NATTA's journal
, issue160 March-April2006

   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1. Intermittency- not a big issue?

2. Marine renewables- tidal and wave progress

3. Wind power- problems and successes

4. The Energy Review- UK split on nuclear power

5. NFFO fund raided – Treasury helps itself

6. Microgen for all – micro CHP in action

7. LCBP gets £30m  - Skills gap? 

8. UK roundup – local wind and solar projects

9. Global Developments - Clinton Global Initiative

10. Europe - France, Spain, Portugal, Germany

11. Around the World - USA, Canada, China

12. Nuclear News- Chernobyl revisited, US Safety

7.Funding Gap? LCBP gets £30m

With the DTI’s Clear Skies and  Major Photovoltaic Demonstration programmes being wound up, the renewable energy community has expressed concerns about funding in the future.  The MPDP has seen 1000’s of PV projects go ahead and solar PV prices have fallen by 30%, while the Clear Skies programme has supported many community projects. But the replacement Low Carbon Buildings Programme (LCBP) has only just completed its consultation phase, so there were fear that there could be a funding gap. Philip Wolfe of the Renewable Power Association complained that “the commercial consequences of this stop-start approach for private sector businesses are potentially disastrous. Investment decisions are being put on hold and hard-won jobs in the sector are now under threat.” Jeremy Leggett of Solar Century said “It makes business planning virtually impossible. They’ve created a fledgling industry and then decided on a whim to nip it in the bud”.

In a joint statement Greenpeace and the Renewable Power Association maintained that there will be a gap in funding for community renewable energy projects. “This is happening just at a time when government is urging communities to ‘do their bit’ in the battle against climate change. Given the Prime Minister’s repeated comments about climate change, we find it incomprehensible that the government is sleep-walking towards a protracted gap in support for technologies such as solar thermal, biomass and solar PV.”  

Stephen Tindale from Greenpeace piled on the pressure: “Given the government persists in marginalizing these technologies, the least they can do is maintain what little support they do provide for these most vital businesses. Many innovative businesses will simply not survive the funding gap. In the face of climate change, that is scandalous. The gap between the rhetoric and reality of government action on climate change gets wider by the day.”

However Energy Minister, Malcolm Wicks, responding to  Parliamentary Questions on 31st Oct, said that ‘we are currently developing the details of the new programme and considering how best to ensure a smooth transition with minimal disruption to grant support’, adding that the low carbon buildings programme was ‘due to be in place by April 2006’.  And on Nov 3. he announced £30m for the Low Carbon Building Programme over three years- with a strong emphasis on schools- see Box.  He said that he was also bringing forward £1.5 m to help the Clear Skies & Photovoltaic programmes meet increased demand until the LCBP was in place. So it pays to complain! But the level of support is quite low- £10m p.a. for three years. The Renewable Power Association’s microrenewables policy manager, Sebastian Berry, said the amount of funding was a ‘clear step backwards’ adding that ‘we are extremely disappointed at the small scale of funding available... The overall funding pot is not at the same level as previous government commitments to ensure that a range of renewable technologies are in a position to contribute to future government targets.’

When first announced in 2001, the solar PV initiative was expected to continue until 2012 and ‘establish the UK as a credible player.... alongside Germany and Japan. The reality has been very different. As the Guardian noted (19/10/05), in 2004 the UK installed a record 2.5MW of solar power, but Germany installed over 300MW. ‘Although successful, the total value of the Clear Skies & PV programmes has been £45m.  By comparison, Germany spent £300m to reach its 100,000 solar roofs target.’  The Guardian added ‘a 2001 joint government-industry report recommended that £150m would be needed to deliver up to 100,000 PV roofs’.

As noted in Renew 159, there are also concerns that the LCBP, which the DTI consultation suggests should involve competitive bidding, will be concentrated on a few large-scale projects at the expense of smaller scaled community projects.

* Green Party Principal Speaker Keith Taylor commented: ‘Compared with the billions sunk every year into nuclear industry £30m is a woefully small sum to stimulate the renewable energy sector’. 

Skills gap

The UK target of generating 10% of electricity from renewables by 2010 could be undermined by lack of people with the necessary skills according to a report ‘Role of Physics in Renewable Energy RD&D’ from Future Energy Solutions for the Institute of Physics. The IOP’s Peter Main commented “It is vital that we support UK physics and attract more students to study physics and go on to pursue a career in areas such as energy generation”.  

The report claims that the UK could be a world leader in the development of solar PV and wave or tidal energy, but says that there are very few post-graduate opportunities in the development of renewable energy technologies or fuel cells, since it is difficult to obtain funding for interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary research. 

IOP’s chief executive Robert Kirby-Harris commented “This report shows that the huge promise of renewables will only be realised if there is sufficient investment in research and development in this field and also in attracting more students into essential subjects such as physics. A simple, clearer system of funding linked to more post-graduate and research opportunities in renewable energy research is urgently needed to kick-start this process.”  See

Technical skills

However it not just University training that’s needed- but new skills right across the range.  Jean Lambert, London’s Green MEP, has called for action to provide the UK workforce with the essential skills and training necessary for renewable energy schemes.  Jean, who sits on the Euro Parliament’s Employment and Social  Affairs Committee, said: ‘Strategies for improving the environment rely  heavily on training. It is vital that we meet CO2 reduction targets but we wont be successful if the next generation are not trained in  improving the environment. How will we meet targets if we haven’t got any trained solar panel fitters, for example?  Training is all too often aimed at placing people in jobs and ignores the significant potential that exists to empower people to improve the environment.  Training solely through a perspective of increasing income capacity, is neither integrated nor capable of working towards a society that lives by the principles of sustainable development.’

Technology Programme

The government is to provide £63m to companies to promote innovation under the latest round of the £370m Technology Programme- which now subsumes the DTI’s New and Renewable Energy Programme (see Renew 156). Funding is available for six technology priority areas, including £13m for low-carbon energy.

The Government is also providing additional funding of £10m for technology demonstrations under DTI’s Carbon Abatement Technologies Strategy.

NATTA/Renew Subscription Details

Renew is the bi-monthly 30 plus page newsletter of NATTA, the Network for Alternative Technology and Technology Assessment. NATTA members gets Renew free. NATTA membership cost £18 pa (waged) £12pa (unwaged), £6 pa airmail supplement (Please make cheques payable to 'The Open University', NOT to 'NATTA')

Details from NATTA , c/o EERU,
The Open University,
Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA
Tel: 01908 65 4638 (24 hrs)

The full 32 (plus) page journal can be obtained on subscription
The extracts here only represent about 25% of it.

This material can be freely used as long as it is not for commercial purposes and full credit is given to its source.

The views expressed should not be taken to necessarily reflect the views of all NATTA members, EERU or the Open University.

We are now offering to e-mail subscribers a PDF version of the complete Renew, instead  of sending them the printed version, should they wish.