Report on UK's Future Energy Sources Calls for Government Action
Chemical science must be at the centre of Britain's future energy research and production but more funding and a greater emphasis on chemistry in the context of energy in the school and undergraduate curriculum is needed for that to happen properly, according to a major new report published today.
The report examines the future engagement of chemical scientists in energy production (i.e. nuclear energy, petroleum, coal, natural gas, and renewable power), energy distribution and storage, energy efficiency and handling of wastes and by-products, stressing the role of science in all areas while concluding.
"Chemical sciences will be at the heart of multidisciplinary initiatives, since much value will be gained from an improved molecular-level understanding of chemical processes. The opportunities for chemical scientists to transform the energy system are substantial, including, for example, the clean and efficient combustion of fossil fuels without formation and release of unwanted pollutants, greater efficiency in renewable energy technologies and greater capacity in energy storage."
The 50-page report, Chemical Science Priorities for Sustainable Energy Solutions, produced by the Royal Society of Chemistry, said a range of measures need to be taken by the Government, funding agencies and learned and professional societies to ensure that the country has the best scientists available for tomorrow's energy challenges.
Chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry Dr David Giachardi said today: "The Government must put in place a framework to provide fiscal incentives to promote research and development associated with sustainable energy technologies".
"Large scale long-term funding is essential for basic chemistry and for application specific chemistry to underpin energy-related research. Pioneering energy-related R&D will rely on a vibrant chemical science community in which key work will be performed in facets such as materials chemistry, catalysis, combustion chemistry and radiochemistry in the UK.
Professor Rodney Townsend, RSC's Director of Science and Technology, said: "Incentives are required to recruit and retain outstanding, internationally competitive scientists to work on energy-related research in the UK. Incentives to attract international researchers to work in these areas are required to ensure that R&D happens now."
He added: "Energy-linked chemistry has to be projected in a more attractive fashion in the university undergraduate curriculum. This should include references to the chemistry of energy production, natural energy flows, carbon cycle of oil, gas, and radiochemistry.
"We also believe that teachers should receive continual professional development to keep their knowledge about sustainable energy up to date so that young people can be taught the critical importance of the issues and the role that chemistry has to play in the decades to come."
The report also stresses the need for the UK's Learned Societies to bring about greater interactions between those in the scientific and engineering fields.
Dr Eimear Cotter, RSC's Manager of Environment, Sustainability and Energy said: "An adequate and secure supply of energy is fundamental to our quality of life but this needs to be achieved with minimum adverse environmental impact. Our report lays out the challenges and key research and development areas for chemical sciences in the work that lies ahead of us with the twin aims of meeting current and future energy demands while avoiding environmental damage to our world."
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