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The case for a new energy research, development and promotion policy for the UK



This paper is a critical assessment of the current balance of efforts towards energy research and development (R&D) and the promotion of low-carbon electricity technologies in the UK. We review the UK's main technological options and their estimated cost ranges in the medium term. We contrast the energy R&D spending with the current and expected future cost of renewable promotion policies and point out the high cost of carbon saving through existing renewable promotion arrangements. We also note that liberalisation of the electricity sector has had significant implications for the landscape of energy R&D in the UK. We argue that there is a need for reappraisal of the soundness and balance of the energy R&D and renewable capacity deployment efforts towards new energy technologies. We suggest that the cost-effectiveness of UK deployment policies needs to be more closely analysed as associated costs are non-trivial and expected to rise. We also make a case for considering increasing the current low level of energy R&D expenditure. Much of energy R&D is a public good and we should consider whether the current organisation of R&D effort is fit for purpose. We argue that it is important to build and maintain the research capability in the UK in order to absorb spillovers of technological progress elsewhere in the world. Against this background, the recent signs that an energy R&D renaissance could be underway are therefore positive and welcome.

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