Last week’s poll: government funding for disruptive energy technologies

When should the public sector fund untried but promising energy technology projects?

With government funding ruled out for Tidal Lagoon Power’s proposed tidal energy projects, we asked when public sector funds should be made available for untried but promising energy technology projects.

energy technology

A proposed proof-of-concept project in Swansea Bay would have seen a 320MW facility built, followed by scaled-up developments at sites in Cardiff, Newport, West Cumbria, Colwyn Bay, and Bridgwater Bay.

In justifying the government’s position, business secretary Greg Clark said: “The inescapable conclusion…is that however novel and appealing the proposal that has been made is…the costs that would be incurred by consumers and taxpayers would be so much higher than alternative sources of low carbon power.”

That isn’t to say tidal has been ruled out, but Clark has stipulated that ‘any proposals must be able credibly to demonstrate value for money for consumers and public funds’.

We asked if you agree with what Clark seems to be saying, that disruptive technology projects should only receive public funds if they represent a clear and immediate cost benefit to the public?

Of the 319 respondents, 29 per cent thought disruptive energy technologies should be funded at every opportunity. A total of 46 per cent the vote was split equally between those that thought funding should be available if the project has the potential to create significant jobs and income; or only if they give consumers a clear cost advantage.

A fifth of respondents thought public funding viable if the risks are quantifiable, and five per cent opted for ‘none of the above’.

The ensuing debate in Comments rages on, but opinions received so far include this from Julian Spence, who said: “There are arguments for supporting technology that is new and exciting (radical?) with potential to be disruptive; these are often the forgotten (such as wave power). However, I believe these should be supported at the research stage (i.e. sorting out the manufacturing and design issues).”

Douglas K Robinson added: “Can the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project be deemed a truly disruptive technology? Surely such terms apply to new untried and ground-breaking technologies that presently do not exist. Since tidal power schemes using conventional power generating technology are already in service, then using funds for the SBL would appear inappropriate here.”

“It is not up to the government to pick winners, it should fund all new ideas with seed capital, until the concept can be shown to be viable or otherwise” said John Patrick Ettridge. “The concept can readily be demonstrated in small scale, to keep the cost down, at a much lower cost than full size, with the view that commercial investors can see the potential and fund the larger full size production unit.”

What do you think? Continue the debate using Comments below.

As ever, commenters should read our guidelines on the content of comments, and bear in mind that all comments will be moderated. We may edit for spelling, grammar, length and clarity.