The week ahead – shale and storage: two aspects of future energy

News editor

Two technologies wich could form part of the UK’s energy landscape are under discussion at conferences this week

An energy-related double header is scheduled this week, with one camp considering energy storage options for renewables and the other scrutinising the potential shale boom.

Renewable energy sources tick all the right boxes when it comes to carbon targets but wind and tidal et al are subject to the fluctuation and variability, which makes energy storage a pressing requirement. Earlier in the year The Engineer’s Stuart Nathan discussed the subject at length. Click here to read more.

The subject comes under further scrutiny tomorrow in Bristol where the Energy Institute (EI) is hosting a conference on the role of energy storage in the UK energy system.

EI say the event ‘will bring together industry experts to examine the potential of energy storage as a key element in the UK’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions whilst increasing energy security and sustainability.’

This will become particularly pressing as the UK moves toward its 2050 carbon reduction target of at least 80 per cent from a 1990 baseline, prompting government and industry to look closer at ‘new and emerging technologies which will help meet carbon reduction goals and enable a greater role for renewables in the energy mix.’

This in turn has given rise to a pressing need to develop what EI say are ‘affordable, effective ways to scale up energy storage projects and stimulate investment to bring them into production.’

More information on tomorrow’s event can be found here.

The organisers of this week’s UK Shale Gas Summit believe the event will ‘take a hard look at how the government, shale operators and local communities can work together to develop a commercially viable and sustainable UK shale industry.’

Efforts have already been made to encourage the often controversial issue of shale gas extraction – returning one per cent of revenues to local communities where fracking is taking place, and announcing a consultation on tax incentives to encourage shale exploration being just two of them.

Taking place at the KPMG Conference Centre, the event has gathered an expert speaker panel to address the key issues through roundtable panel discussions and presentations.

The day centres around five key themes:

  • Shale in the context of the government’s energy policies
  • Potential scale and economics of the UK shale industry
  • Taking advantage of the opportunity – technological and practical considerations
  • Winning the argument I – environmental and safety concerns
  • Winning the argument II – bringing the local community on board

Perhaps a sixth item could be added that goes something like ‘Winning the argument III – what’s in it for domestic consumers? Lower gas bills or not?’ Let us know your thoughts below.

As if by some timely coincidence, the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee meets tomorrow to hold the first evidence session of its new inquiry into the possible impact of shale gas and oil on the UK economy.

The Committee will hear evidence from Prof Alan Riley from City University and Richard Sarsfield-Hall and John Williams from Poyry Management Consultants.

The Committee will ask the witnesses whether the government’s energy policy is suited to encourage early and substantial development of the use of shale gas and oil, whether the UK’s energy market is flexible enough to absorb a significant increase in provision of shale gas and how far shale gas and oil extraction would benefit the UK economy.

The session can be viewed here.

A far less controversial event takes place in Devon this week that, in isolation, isn’t necessarily front page news but the context in which it takes place deserves more attention.

Manufacturing South West, hosted at the headquarters of XYZ Machine Tools in Tiverton, is a new exhibition involving 18 specialist companies representing all aspects of manufacturing and production.

The event brings together latest developments and demonstrations that for many will be the first chance to see new product launches.

The organizers say leading industry names will be presenting the latest turning, milling, CNC sliding head, 5-axis machining, EDM sheet metal forming, laser cutting and tooling, sawing and cutting-off, cutting tools, workholding and bar feed equipment, coolant and filtration.

This event forms part of Manufacturing Matters, a Manufacturing Advisory Service initiative designed to raise the profile of England’s SMEs and their role in reviving the economy.

Backed by BIS, GrowthAccelerator, IMechE, and UKTI (UK Trade & Investment), Manufacturing Matters aims to debate key challenges and opportunities for England’s SMEs and opening up dialogue with the media, politicians and industry influencers ‘to ensure the right support is in place to encourage growth and future job creation’.

It will culminate with a week of activities in November that will include the launch of the next MAS Barometer, a series of debates and events covering topics such as innovation, skills, international trade and access to finance.

In a statement, Stephen Peacock, director at Grant Thornton, which leads the consortium delivering MAS, said: ‘The larger companies are the ones that usually get the column inches and airtime, yet it is the SMEs in the supply chain that make up 95 per cent of industry.

‘They are doing more than most to help drive the recent resurgence with many taking on staff, launching new products and investing in the latest technology.

‘We…want to raise some of the issues affecting the sector and by engaging with the larger manufacturers, the Local Enterprise Partnerships, other business support partners and industry bodies, ensure they have access to the specialist assistance they require.’

A dedicated website has been set up to host interviews and key issues being discussed by SME manufacturers, who are encouraged to use the website and Twitter (via @mfg_matters or #mfgmatters) to say exactly why ‘manufacturing matters’.

Finally, this Wednesday sees David Willetts, minister for Universities and Science, deliver the IET’s 2013 Mountbatten Memorial Lecture at the Royal Institution.

Entitled ‘Eight great technologies – and more’, Willett’s speech will be based on his recent paper that identified the technologies expected to have potential economic importance for the UK, namely: big data; satellites; robots; modern genetics; regenerative medicine; agricultural technologies; advanced materials; and energy storage.

Willetts maintains that Britain’s research base is strong in the eight areas identified but states that investment alone will amount to little if the nation doesn’t improve in applying the research that is currently available.