UK launches £450m fund for energy innovation
Ofgem and Innovate UK are looking for proposals for innovative and far-reaching decarbonisation in transport, heating, system integration and digitilisation through their joint Strategic Innovation Fund. The £450m fund is aimed at boosting decarbonisation efforts before the UK hosts the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. The objective behind the fund is to encourage innovations that will transform the UK into the Silicon Valley of energy.
Ofgem has indicated that the funding, which comes from network charges on consumer bills, could be increased for viable proposals as the UK chases its 2050 net carbon zero targets.
Bold and ambitious
The fund is asking for 'big, bold and ambitious' ideas that have the potential to be scaled across the network. Ofgen said the fund was targeting a range of projects from heat pumps and clean heating solutions to developing ways for network companies to work together on transmission, distribution and systems operations.
One area of interest is battery storage, which Ofgem sees as critical as power generation increasingly comes from so-called 'intermittent' renewable sources like wind and solar.
Among the major economies, the UK has been one of the most successful at phasing out its reliance on fossil fuels and reducing emissions. It has achieved this by phasing out coal, boosting renewables and importing clean electricity.
Imports are currently at a record high, a trend set to continue for the short to medium term according to industry analysts EnAppSys. This is as a result of new interconnectors from Norway and France coming online later in the year. It's predicted that by Christmas 2021, the UK will have installed cables from other countries totalling 8.4GW. That's around 25% of the UK's current energy needs coming from overseas operators, according to Phil Hewitt, director of EnAppSys. This markedly increases the likelihood of imports hitting a high over the next few months.
However, NetAppSys believes that the UK has the potential to be a net exporter by 2025 when a number of offshore wind farms come on-stream. This could mean the UK has surplus of power at peak generating times.
Ofgem and Innovate UK are encouraging universities and companies to form partnerships with gas and electric system and network operators. These consortiums can then apply for funding from the Strategic Innovation Fund through a competitive process. Lord Martin Callanan at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has said the fund would be a critical part of efforts to build back greener after the pandemic.
It's no secret that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has prioritised green policies ahead of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow this November. While some environmental groups feel the government has not gone far enough, Johnson has introduced a ban on sales of ICE cars from 2030 and expanded targets for offshore wind generation.
According to a report by the Climate Change Committee, the government's independent advisory panel, hitting net zero will require the decarbonisation of large swathes of industry including energy and construction. They advocate a switch to a zero emissions electricity system which the Strategic Innovation Fund can help to support.