January 27, 2010
UK Government Cuts Critical Investments in Energy R&D
Update (6/20): IPPR's Matthew Lockwood notes at the Political Climate Blog that the UK Government's decision to cut clean energy innovation funding doesn't jive with it's rhetoric to be the "greenest government ever.":
"Support to low carbon innovation is pretty small beer compared with the size of the deficit, but crucial not only to a deep cut in emissions, but also to the sustainable recovery we will need to deal with that deficit (the idea of cutting our way through it is not only bad economics but also a political fantasy). By comparison with potential competitors like South Korea, it looks as if we are sawing off the branch we are sitting on."
UK Guardian journalist Chris Goodall writes that the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change is poised to cut investment in energy research by about 20%, even as a government committee highlighted the need to increase such investments. As a percentage of GDP, public investment in energy R&D is now just 0.01%, 1/15th the level reached in the 1970s and far below that of other countries, according to Goodall:
From the mid-1980s the amount invested each year has fallen almost continuously. The figure today is about 0.01%, one 15th of what it was a generation ago. We now sit at the bottom of the international league. The US, for example, spends three times as much as a percentage of its GDP, Japan nine times as much.
The UK government announced last week that it was cutting yet more money from of the energy R&D budget. Some £34m is to be axed, affecting low-carbon technology programmes including offshore wind, wood fuels, building insulation and geothermal energy. This represents a reduction of just under 20% of total public expenditure on low-carbon technologies.
The UK is scaling back other forms of public support for clean energy as well:
This figure is on top of the cancellation of the £80m loan to Sheffield Forgemasters that would have paid for much of the installation of a new press to make the huge parts necessary for new nuclear power stations.
According to Goodall, the UK is poised to be an international leader in tidal and wave power equipment, but will likely lose out to international competitors without much greater public investment:
The UK had a fighting chance of becoming the world's major exporter of tidal and wave power equipment but, as with wind power two decades ago, we will lose out to countries with poorer natural resources but greater willingness to invest in hugely expensive R&D.