A new ERA of solutions

The pace of technology over the last 20 years has been phenomenal and has certainly changed our lives.

Can we now use technology to help with environmental problems or is there a ‘hair shirt’ mentality about climate change which means it’s always about what you must give up?

I’m fed up listening to people, who lead comfortable lives, lecturing the rest of us on what we must do without.

It was a pleasure to listen to Sir David Eastwood and Prof Martin Freer, University of Birmingham, talk about many of the solutions that might be just around the corner. The Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) is a project involving several Midlands universities, designing ‘Big Ideas’ for the future.

These include Energy Storage, Alternative Fuels and Decarbonisation. ERA is also supporting businesses to access the skills and expertise they need.

The ideas could result in over 7,000 new jobs. One third of the UK’s energy sector jobs are already based in the Midlands, so it’s very important.

The ERA is a huge research and innovation venture, bringing together over 1,000 researchers and creating worldleading facilities and partnerships. It’s exactly the kind of collaboration that gave us the coronavirus vaccine.

We now need that same urgency and determination to meet future energy demands. Things could be different: imagine fridges and washing machines that talk to us; devices that only turn on when power is cheapest; and, new kinds of buses, factories and central heating.

Solar photovoltaics and batteries can generate, store and distribute enough energy for whole housing blocks. Renewable power generation and hydrogen storage systems can transform manufacture. Hydrogen can be used in many industrial applications, so cost-effective production and storage will be vital for a cleaner and more sustainable future. Battery storage facilities are essential for environmentally friendly and affordable electricity; and, at University of Warwick, they have state-of-the-art battery testing facilities. Hopefully, this will persuade the government to agree we need a battery Giga factory in our region, especially if we want to build those new electric cars in the Midlands.

Perhaps the future needn’t be as frugal as some suggest.

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