The UK leads the world when it comes to investment in energy efficient technologies research, but Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Chief Executive Dave Delpy believes that more is needed: "Scientific and engineering research has already brought us fuel cells, marine, wind and solar power solutions, but more investment is needed to develop the capabilities of different solutions if we are to meet our carbon emission targets by 2020 and limit the impact of climate change."
According to Ofgem, the gas and electricity authority, UK emissions are falling 0.5% per year, but a 2-3% reduction is needed to meet targets. To tackle the problem, the Committee on Climate Change wants more investment in low carbon technology.
Emerging solutions to sustainable living funded by EPSRC include:
- A 6.9 million research partnership with E.ON to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies that could drastically cut CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel power stations. CCS technology enables carbon dioxide to be captured from power stations which is then stored underground to prevent it from entering the Earth's atmosphere.
- New energy capture machine the 'Oyster' harnesses the power of the sea to generate electricity and is already being tested on a commercial scale. Ten Oysters could power 100,000 homes and should be hooked up to the National Grid by 2013.
- New LED lighting that can be produced for a tenth of the current price could become widely available in the next five years and could cut the proportion of UK electricity used for lighting from 20% to 5%.
- A low carbon shipping initiative led by a consortium of UK universities in response to concern that by 2050 emissions from shipping could rise by 20-30%. Tristan Smith of University College London says: "We hope our research will be used to guide regulation development and to decrease carbon emissions produced by the world's shipping lanes."
According to Delpy these innovations are only one part of the solution:
"Scientists and engineers in the UK have developed groundbreaking low carbon technologies to help us reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. However, what is now needed is further research into how to deploy these devices in the most efficient and cost effective manner that has the least impact on the natural environment."
Research Councils UK Energy Programme led by EPSRC is investing more than 530 million in research in the UK to develop low carbon technologies to fight the effects of climate change.
EPSRC is bringing together engineers and scientists with industry partners including E.ON UK, EDF Energy, the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) and many more.
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