Kate's Comment

Thoughts on British ICT, energy & environment, cloud computing and security from Memset's MD

Green Economy Council – May 2012 (green skills & adaption)

These are my raw, unedited notes from the latest green economy council meeting. I thought some of you might find it interesting to have an insight into the sorts of things that we discuss.

Updates from the ministers

Rt Hon Vince Cable MP – BIS

New philosophy of cross-sector and cross-specialism collaboration, pioneered/exemplified by the GEC has become increasingly embedded in government.

Talked a bit about catapult centres – focussed on long term innovation at interface between universities and business.

Green investment bank is potentially an enormously important institution in the longer term. Frustration: what is actually happening? First £80 million is being dispersed through two specialist fund managers. Waste management and industrial energy conservation. GIB is able to proceed even without EC support – money is getting out of the door. Budgeted £800m this financial year.

Energy intensive industries: sub group focussing on how we deal with the support mechanisms for EIIs (eg. steel, disadvantaged by high electricity prices). Going through a consultation to define exactly what the sectors are. Electricity markets review will address which areas to focus on.

– I welcomed the review on EII’s and the review of the CRC in the context of data centres, which to date have not really been recognised as an EII. Vince asked if we were contributing to the EII consultation. I said we were but have double-checked with Intellect!

Greg Barker MP – DECC

Last week hosted clean energy ministerial – conference of 20 largest energy economies around the world. Everything from generation to driving forwards CCS. Results: greater cooperation on off-shore, floating wind turbines between UK & US. £25m(poss 250?) for SMEs to demo renewables(?). Additional £60m (on top of existing £1bn investments) to demonstrate CCS in developing countries (opportunity to get UK companies into that space).

Main programme is green deal: Most important that DECC will deliver this year – greatest potential as a driver of growth.

Are creating 1,000+ green deal apprenticeships. Set to launch green deal this Autumn. Mentioned challenges faced by utility companies who are having to augment their IT systems to be ale to cope.

Also looking at how to deploy the £200m of incentives made available in the budget for the green deal in the first 18 months.

Is deliberately very broad in order to encourage innovation and bring in new products as well as the existing ones.

Also talking to supply chain about Renewables Heat Incentive(?) to try and get more applications. 421 applications made, 41 accredited to the scheme. Just under 200MW of heat under scheme. Main focus is on business but intend to expand into domestic space too. Dissapointed that most of the large scale RHI kit is actually coming from Germany – can count British suppliers on one hand.

Had to step in last year to bring solar benefits in hand (double-digit, inflation-proofed benefits was a bit too good to be true!). Sounds like it will continue but they are being flexible on the budget with an aim to maximise deployment – 1m solar deployments by 2015 is the target. Are aware that industry’s confidence due to this intervention has been knocked and they wish to rebuild that.

– In response to question on bad press green deal is getting:
Needs our (industry’s) help – is in everyone’s interest to make work. What can DECC do to drive confidence in the green deal? Feedback from around the table:
– The sole trader / SME did not see how they could engage with the green deal: messaging to them that it is for everyone needs to get across.
– Needs a government-industry joint campaign.
– See great opportunity for job creation, especially among youth, as well as green benefits. Don’t want to see longer-term vision diminished.

Richard Benyon MP / DEFRA

They would like to see a “blue” (water) element to the green deal. Watching the green deal with close interest.

Natural capital: $2.9tn is the global resource inefficiency (according to McKinsey) (context: minerals/metals). One of their focus areas – where do such resources come into and leave the country.

RIO+20: Deputy PM will be heading the British delegation. Good business engagement to date. Really want to send a message at Rio that the green economy is being driven by business.

Tim Balcon – Green skills

Briefly ran through the skills paper.

I said: Danger that the definition of green skills is focussing too much on utility, renewable energy and green deal skills, and vocational-level training – taking a rather vertical view of skills. Engineering and technology has huge potential to green the economy but would not generally be classed as being in the “green” sector – need more STEM skills!

Made point that we are already struggling to find enough recruits and that was hampering our innovative capabilities. To be an innovative leader in the low-carbon space the skills we need are STEM-based, which is where the shortage is. VC asked if what level our apprenticeship is – I replied that our general requirements were quite high (degree level) but we were expanding downwards

Several members supported my call for more STEM skills (Ford & Aldersgate group to name two).

Peter Young (Aldersgate) mentioned that there were no numbers in the paper / no evidence. Advocated a more analytic study into where we actually need the core skills, to identify the unarticulated need. Need numbers to show how large opportunities are, and to help avoid issues like that Greg mentioned on RHI (ie. not enough suppliers in the UK!).

Adaption to climate change

Richard Benyon talked about the climate change adaptation paper.

Many of his examples were from ICT (Vodafone flooding in Turkey, Dell w Thai disk flood) so I reminded the council that in fact ICT was one of the more resilient areas thanks to the interlinked nature of our facilities, and that we now tended to avoid building data centres on flood plains!

I made Emma’s point though about needing case studies, good and bad, in order to galvanise action. Most companies don’t do a proper ISO27001-style risk assessment so may not have thought of the risks. Case studies would likely help that a lot – “It could happen to you” etc.

I also articulated ICT’s key role in modelling and predicting risks.

Broad support around the table for the case studies idea.

Richard responded mentioning some impressive systems that can predict flooding risks down to house level.

Some discussion on insurance – issues and usefulness as a predictor.

Supply chain: Richard mentioned how fragile basic things like the food supply is – we operate a “just in time” model and, for example, a massive amount of food has to cross the M25 each day. We take it for granted!

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