Energy challenges and security solutions

Stephen Harris

Senior Reporter

It’s good news for the UK’s renewable energy sector this week as the government prepares to prove its green credentials with an ambitious new set of emissions targets.

Energy secretary Chris Huhne is this week expected to announce targets to reduce CO2 output by around 50 per cent on 1990 levels by 2025.

This will mean drastic changes to energy production, transport and potentially domestic life as the government seeks to move to low-carbon electricity sources and invest in new technology to reduce energy usage.

It is hoped that legal commitment will encourage investors and major companies to put more money into these sectors in the UK by reassuring them the government isn’t going to withdraw its support.

Last week, a £38m wind turbine tower factory was opened in South Wales by bridge-building firm Mabey Bridge, an example of a long-established UK engineering company benefiting from the burgeoning renewables sector.

But the business department had reportedly been opposed to the deal, fearing that legally binding reduction targets could harm UK companies by forcing them to limit their pollution.

The manufacturers’ organisation EEF yesterday warned that committing to drastic cuts without similar agreements in Europe would damage Britain’s competitiveness and prospects for investment.

‘If however, the government simply pushes ahead, then at the very least it must ensure it safeguards the competitiveness of manufacturers and energy intensive users in particular,’ said EEF chief executive, Terry Scuoler.

‘Failure to do so risks moving the problem of emissions elsewhere at a cost of lost inward investment and economic growth.’

The government is also planning reforms to the electricity market, and the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee today warned the proposals were being distorted by hidden subsidies for new nuclear power stations.

The Liberal Democrats are opposed to nuclear energy and the Coalition agreement said nuclear plants could only be built without public subsidy.

But the Committee believes new long-term contracts and a minimum carbon price would hand nuclear companies windfall profits.

‘Ministers believe that new nuclear could play a key role in keep the lights on and meeting our climate change targets—but they don’t want to own up to supporting it,’ said the Committee’s chair, Tim Yeo MP.

‘The government must be up front about the support it is giving to nuclear and not hide subsidies in a one-size-fits-all design for long-term energy contracts.’

Away from the energy sector, the focus is on the security industry this week, with one of its largest events ­­– IFSEC 2011– taking place at the NEC in Birmingham.

Terrorism and security present some unique and demanding challenges for engineers, especially as so much of our national infrastructure is privately owned and is therefore the responsibility of businesses to protect.

IFSEC will showcase the latest technology being used to keep people and property safe, from intelligent video analytics to biometric data capturing.

The event will include a Dragons’ Den-style Future of Security competition, an effort to find the next big technological innovation that can defend against terrorist incidents or other criminal acts.

The show will also feature an Engineers of Tomorrow skills challenge, where teams of security engineer apprentices will take part in a number of exercises to test their physical and mental capabilities – with a £1,000 prize up for grabs.