Skills crisis could thwart renewables target

The UK lacks the necessary skills to achieve the Government’s target of producing 10% of our electricity from renewable energy sources by 2010, according to an independent report published today by the Institute of Physics.


The UK lacks the necessary skills to achieve the Government’s target of producing 10% of our electricity from renewable energy sources by 2010, according to an independent report published by the Institute of Physics.


The report “The Role of Physics in Renewable Energy RD&D” by Judith Bates and Nikolas Hill of Future Energy Solutions, part of AEA Environment, highlights the UK’s lack of general technical skills as well as more specialist skills, a major factor which will hamper Britain’s ability to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and create a sustainable mix of clean, safe energy.


“A solution to this problem would be to estimate the future skills and educational needs, from R&D through to applied engineering, and make an effort to ensure these skills are provided,” says co-author Judith Bates.


The report highlights the fact that there are very few post-graduate opportunities in the development of renewable energy technologies or fuel cells. According to the report, the difficulty in obtaining funding for interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary research topics is preventing many from pursuing research in this area. It calls for a more flexible approach to funding for research in this field, and for a clear indication from Government of the importance of investing in this area of research.

The report surveys existing renewable-energy technologies and also looks at new technologies being developed in the UK. It reveals that the UK could be a world-leader in two important areas: photovoltaic energy and wave or tidal energy. In both these areas the UK has a number of universities with significant research capability.


“Ensuring these strengths are developed” says Judith Bates, “could bring substantial benefits for the UK, both in terms of enabling deployment of these technologies and reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and in terms of financial benefits from export earnings as these technologies are deployed globally.”