From the TUC

Chief Scientist warns DECC over Budget cuts

19 Sep 2012, by in Economics, Environment

A review panel looking at DECC’s science and engineering capacity has warned that a 60% cut in its innovation budge means the department could struggle to develop new technologies at the pace and scale required. The cuts, from £150m last year to £40m a year for the next four years, weaken the Government’s efforts to counter the risks of dangerous climate change and ensure secure energy supplies. The Science & Engineering Assurance Review, led by Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir John Beddington, urges DECC to better understand the economic benefits of public funding for energy and climate change research.

A large proportion of DECC’s spend is on areas where science has a role to play:

  • Half of DECC’s budget is spent on the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority: £2bn a year.
  • £1Bn will be spent on a pilot Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) programme.
  • Following Comprehensive Spending Review 2011, £200M will be spent over four years on low carbon technologies.
  • This includes £60M for the development of offshore wind manufacturing at port sites. 

However, the DECC Innovation budget (which various parts of DECC bid into) is falling from £150M last year to about £40M per year – a 60% cut over the next four years. The Review Panel expressed concern over “whether the department will still be able to develop all the technologies needed and at the required rate.”

We’re not the only organisation concerned that government should take account of the economic and employment benefits public-led investment in new low carbon technologies, and issue we’ll explore at Green is good for growth  on 23 October:

  • Renewable energy technologies bring huge benefits to the      economy: 110,000 jobs in 2011, over £12bn turnover directly and in supply      chains, according to Made in Britain
  • The TUC’s report with the Energy Intensive’s Users Group shows that industries like steel, cement, glass, ceramics, chemicals – all vital to a low carbon economy but consuming much energy in the process – have a £95bn turnover and employ 800,00 people directly or in suppliers.

In each case, stakeholders are arguing that Government has yet to appreciate the wider and lasting economic benefits of public-led support in the low carbon transition. The Beddington Review says: “DECC should consider how best to involve economic analysis in determining the desirable level and allocation of public funding to energy and climate change research.”

The Review identifies two areas for a more collaborative approach:                    

  • the civil nuclear sector: involving stronger support and better coordination and dialogue in terms of research programmes and new technologies. 
  • Carbon capture & Storage (CCS) technologies and an offshore grid regime.

 DECC should “continue to strengthen its engagement with stakeholders, ensuring consistent communication and dialogue with the wider scientific and engineering community – research councils and professional institutions as well as academia and industry. For its part, the TUC has consistently argued that stakeholder consultation is the first step in a Just Transition to a low carbon economy.

DECC leads the UK Government’s efforts to counter the risks of dangerous climate change, and of a shortfall in the supply of safe, affordable energy. These two challenges “need to be considered jointly as 80% of UK greenhouse gas emissions arise from energy supply and consumption.”