Energy is essential for our modern society, but it also comes with many challenges. How can we meet the growing demand for energy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ensuring energy security? How can we transition to a low-carbon economy while maintaining affordability and reliability? How can we harness the potential of renewable energy sources and new technologies?
These are some of the questions that the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) aims to answer. The ETI is a public-private partnership between the UK government and six major energy companies: BP, Caterpillar, EDF, Rolls-Royce, Shell, and SSE. The ETI was established in 2007 and has invested over £400 million in more than 100 projects across various sectors, such as offshore wind, marine, nuclear, carbon capture and storage, smart systems, and bioenergy.
The ETI’s mission is to accelerate the development, demonstration, and deployment of low-carbon technologies that can help the UK achieve its climate change targets and create economic opportunities. The ETI works with a network of partners, including universities, research institutes, industry, and SMEs, to deliver innovative solutions that can be scaled up and replicated globally. The ETI also provides strategic insights and recommendations to inform policy and decision making, based on its extensive data and modelling capabilities.
In this blog post, we will explore some of the key achievements and impacts of the ETI, as well as some of the current and future challenges and opportunities for the energy sector.
Offshore Wind: A Game-Changer for Renewable Energy
One of the most successful areas of the ETI’s portfolio is offshore wind, which has the potential to provide a significant share of the UK’s electricity needs and create thousands of jobs. The ETI has supported several projects that have improved the performance, reliability, and cost-effectiveness of offshore wind turbines and farms, such as:
- The Offshore Wind Accelerator (OWA), a collaboration between the ETI, the Carbon Trust, and nine offshore wind developers, which has delivered over 150 innovations and reduced the cost of offshore wind by 15%.
- The Floating Offshore Wind Turbine (FOWT) project, which demonstrated the feasibility and benefits of floating wind platforms, which can access deeper and windier waters than fixed foundations.
- The Wake Steering Experiment (WSE) project, which tested a novel technique to increase the power output of offshore wind farms by adjusting the yaw angle of the turbines to reduce wake effects.
These and other projects have contributed to the rapid growth and maturation of the offshore wind industry in the UK, which now has the largest installed capacity in the world, at over 10 GW. The ETI’s analysis suggests that offshore wind could provide up to 40% of the UK’s electricity by 2050, if supported by adequate grid infrastructure and storage solutions.
Marine: Harnessing the Power of the Oceans
Another promising source of renewable energy is marine, which includes wave and tidal technologies that can capture the energy from the movement of the oceans. The UK has a unique advantage in this field, as it has access to some of the best marine resources in the world, especially around Scotland and Northern Ireland. The ETI has invested in several projects that have advanced the development and deployment of marine technologies, such as:
- The ReDAPT (Reliable Data Acquisition Platform for Tidal) project, which installed and tested a 1 MW tidal turbine at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, and collected valuable data on its performance, reliability, and environmental impact.
- The PerAWaT (Performance Assessment of Wave and Tidal Array Systems) project, which developed and validated a suite of tools and methods to assess the energy yield and costs of wave and tidal arrays, and applied them to several case studies in the UK.
- The STEP (Supply Chain, Technology and Environmental Performance) project, which analysed the potential economic and environmental benefits of marine energy in the UK, and identified the key barriers and enablers for its growth.
These and other projects have helped to demonstrate the technical and commercial viability of marine energy, and to build a strong supply chain and skills base in the UK. The ETI’s analysis indicates that marine energy could provide up to 20% of the UK’s electricity by 2050, if supported by appropriate policies and incentives.
Nuclear: A Low-Carbon Baseload Option
Nuclear power is another key component of the UK’s energy mix, as it can provide a large amount of low-carbon electricity that is independent of weather conditions and demand fluctuations. However, nuclear power also faces several challenges, such as high costs, public acceptance, safety, and waste management. The ETI has supported several projects that have addressed some of these challenges and enhanced the prospects of nuclear power in the UK, such as:
- The Nuclear Cost Drivers (NCD) project, which analysed the historical and projected costs of nuclear power plants in the UK and internationally, and identified the main factors that influence them, such as design, construction, operation, and decommissioning.
- The Small Modular Reactors (SMR) project, which evaluated the technical and economic feasibility of small modular reactors, which are smaller and simpler than conventional reactors, and can be manufactured in factories and transported to site.
- The Nuclear Waste Management (NWM) project, which developed and tested a novel method to reduce the volume and toxicity of nuclear waste by separating and transmuting the long-lived isotopes using accelerator-driven systems.
These and other projects have contributed to the improvement and innovation of nuclear power technologies, and to the reduction of their costs and risks. The ETI’s analysis suggests that nuclear power could provide up to 30% of the UK’s electricity by 2050, if supported by a stable and long-term policy framework.
The ETI is a unique and valuable initiative that has delivered significant results and impacts for the UK’s energy sector and beyond. The ETI has accelerated the development and deployment of low-carbon technologies that can help the UK achieve its climate change targets and create economic opportunities. The ETI has also provided strategic insights and recommendations to inform policy and decision making, based on its extensive data and modelling capabilities.
The ETI’s portfolio covers a wide range of sectors and technologies, such as offshore wind, marine, nuclear, carbon capture and storage, smart systems, and bioenergy. Each of these sectors and technologies has its own strengths and challenges, and requires different levels and types of support and intervention. The ETI’s analysis shows that there is no silver bullet solution for the UK’s energy transition, but rather a need for a balanced and diversified energy mix that can meet the multiple objectives of security, affordability, and sustainability.
The ETI’s work is not over yet, as there are still many gaps and uncertainties in the energy landscape, and many opportunities and potential for further innovation and improvement. The ETI will continue to work with its partners and stakeholders to deliver impactful projects and programmes that can address the current and future challenges and opportunities for the energy sector. The ETI will also continue to share its knowledge and expertise with the wider energy community, and to inspire and enable the next generation of energy leaders and innovators.