As Britain digests the Government’s recent Energy Security Strategy announcement and the dust begins to settle on the 10-point plan to deliver green innovations to reach net zero by 2050, those in UK industry will have their opinions on how its roll-out will look in practice.
In a joint response, Prof Matt Boyle, Chair, Driving the Electric Revolution Industrialisation Centres (DER-IC) and Prof Derrick Holliday, Technical Director, DER-IC – North East, debate what the policy could mean for the energy sector. They also discuss the pivotal role that Power Electronics, Machines and Drives (PEMD) will play not only in its success but the opportunity it creates for UK industry.
Creating a stable electrification environment
Matt begins: “PEMD is a lynchpin to developing technologies fit for the future. It is a significant enabler in providing a plethora of solutions to take the planet forward and deliver long-term, net zero growth, so on this merit alone deserves a place at the table in the UK’s wider energy discussion.
“The crux of our present position is that the current ratio of energy sourcing isn’t sustainable. We need to create a more stable electricity supply, a big part of which will be renewable generation along with nuclear – both of which I think are good things and key parts of the mix.”
Derrick added: “I’m pleased to see nuclear is being considered a serious part of the strategy, as other countries have been using this method for years and doing it well, but there’s probably still a bit of an education process that we need to go through, to address the public nervousness which comes with this approach.”
Matt continues: “DER-IC currently provide the skills and facilities that will support the realisation of the industrial technology (IDT) revolution required to meet Government net zero targets and prevent climate breakdown. At the heart of its inception is the mission to make the UK globally recognised for PEMD manufacturing expertise.
“To bring this closer to home with what we’re hoping to achieve through the DER-IC; much of the overall Energy Strategy fits into what we’re trying to do through the programme, enabling supply chains which allow the manufacturing of what’s needed to electrify is what we’re all about and, more importantly, doing so on UK soil. PEMD have a crucial part to play in making this Government plan a reality, as all forms of renewable energy generation require PEMD to operate.”
A re-think on support packages & insulation
Derrick comments: “Government support of the nuclear programme could be more generous, considering that these plants could provide electricity the for the UK’s (growing) population for the next 60 years – more could be done by the Government to show its long-term commitment to the programme.”
Derrick continues: “Insulation will form a critical part of the plan as it’s the cheapest and easiest solution for new builds, however the challenge lies in how to retrofit older properties, which can be an expensive and disruptive process. This also needs more thought, I think.”
Matt comments: “Most, if not all, of the technologies referenced in the Government’s scheme are underpinned by PEMD, presenting a real opportunity for DER-IC, which has a mission to get people and businesses manufacturing this tech in the UK. We can be at the forefront of it – nuclear in particular – and ensure the secure supply of all the equipment needed required to take us into a more sustainable future. The UK has the capability and competence however the wider ecosystem needs to be slicker, as whilst the product IP is here, we don’t currently make it in this country. Funding and access to finance to make manufacturing these products on UK turf a reality would be a no-brainer for the Government as the long-term ROI could be substantial.
He adds: “Whilst I embrace it on many levels, Foreign Direct Investment is hoovering up UK capability. The focus needs to be on empowering UK businesses and entrepreneurs to innovate and take a longer-term view of their business, rather than looking elsewhere. Keep manufacturing here and aim for billions, rather than millions!”
Where will the talent pipeline come from?
Derrick commented: “One of the final and most crucial parts of the puzzle is where the jobs will come from to put this plan into practice, in an already struggling engineering sector, where people are at a premium. It will be a huge challenge and how the Government plans to accommodate this remains unclear. One solution would be to automate where possible then redeploy and retrain people in new roles, from other industries, something we are very much in support of at DER-IC.”
Matt concludes: “DER-IC is not only working hard to communicate with businesses and manufacturers, but also reaching out to schools, colleges, and young people across all walks of life. One of our key objectives is to build a legacy whereby people want to come and work with us or in the wider electrification sphere and we believe we can have real impact from this area of work.
“Whilst the Government has provided a few solutions, it has left many questions unanswered. UK industry now has an opportunity to step up and be bold in the country’s sustainability efforts and DER-IC is excited to be part of its future.”
For more information on Driving the Electrical Revolution Industrialisation Centres (DER-IC) visit: www.der-ic.org.uk