With the recent news this week that Toshiba is to close down its UK nuclear business – the question for the UK government now is – how to fill that void in power generation?
Unfortunately, I think the overriding consideration of central government will be not what to replace it with – but who else can we get to fund an alternative solution?
The Chinese have realised to great effect that the best way to win exports is to deliver ‘and finance’ infrastructure projects but unfortunately it is a sad reflection on the UK as the previous ‘workshop and innovators of the world’ that we now look overseas for both the expertise and funding for such crucial infrastructure capability.
Anyway, with the likelihood that this particular ‘power hole’ is not going to be filled by a large foreign company any time soon – and the increasing calls for new ideas – is this not a good opportunity for the UK government to reflect and undertake its own process of original thought to both invest in the implementation and further development of ‘proper renewable technology’?
Whilst the majority of our renewable technology is imported, the UK does still have the ability to develop, produce and implement innovative and viable solutions with the right steer and commitment from the government. One requirement is for the government to take a longer-term view on investment and consider the economic and environmental benefits of the UK being a world leader (and exporter) in this field.
Whilst there is no doubt that nuclear power has the potential to deliver copious amounts of energy – there are also a number of issues around the sustainability of this process – the most apparent to me being the net release of heat into the atmosphere – but also we must all get better at understanding the value of energy and conserving it – and simply providing ever more cheap energy is not going to solve the problem in the long term.
Apart from the current water powered products produced by WPT, I have personally been investigating the utilisation of water beyond these core products for 30 years. The primary focus of my research has been in the generation of power from the heat energy of water – which has the real potential to provide huge amounts of truly renewable power from the oceans and fresh water sources with the additional environmental benefit of moderating sea and fresh water temperature increases.
Apart from reconsidering its approach to tidal development – this is another area where a well-focussed UK government could participate in world changing technology with development costs being a fraction of the spend on nuclear power.
However, although delivered with good intent – the current UK government grant and competition processes seem to be best undertaken by university applicants that have the support and knowledge of appropriate ‘form filling’ and associated supplementary ballast – and therefore there remains a gap in the ability and desire of busy individuals and small companies such as ours to compete in these processes – especially when these are often ‘match funded’. Ironically, historically much new core technology has been developed by individuals and small companies outside of academia, which is something that the government also needs to consider when designing/validating and assessing their funding programmes and proposals.
So whilst the recent news of Toshiba may be an obvious concern for many – not least the communities in Cumbria – maybe this is the spark required to ignite a renewed vision of energy and industrial policy in the UK that could forge a new industrial and scientific age of progress!
Phil Selwyn (Founder/Technical Director)