Welsh science underpins the energy transition to net zero

November 4th saw the energy transition day of COP26, and with it the regional roadshows being held around the UK. For Wales, the energy transition roadshow took place in North Wales – a region with a strong record in nuclear energy, community-owned renewable generation, commercial wind farms, and a new focus on the potential of offshore wind and tidal energy.

The research network supported the event with a session focused on the science which will help society deliver on ambitious commitments to decarbonize economies for the sake of the planet, and all our futures. Big changes will be needed in how energy is produced, stored, transported and used if there is to be any hope of meeting Net Zero targets. This will require our researchers to develop new ideas, new technology and a keen awareness of any unintended consequences. To put into context some of the latest scientific innovations coming out of Wales in this field, we heard from people working at the cutting edge.

From left to right: Dr Aisha Bello-Dambatta, Dr Michael Rushton, BBC Radio Cymru and S4C presenter Lisa Gwilym, post graduate researcher Gemma Veneruso, and Dr Jenny Baker. Also (appearing via video link) Prof Ian Masters.

Topics covered by the panelists ranged from recovering vast amounts of heat energy that is flushed down the drain every time we use hot water, nuclear reactors for more than just electricity (including heating buildings, medicines and manufacturing products like steel), tidal energy and the impact of tidal projects on marine ecosystems, as well as environmentally friendly alternative materials for battery manufacture that can help to keep high paying jobs here in Wales. Panel chair Lisa Gwilym fielded questions coming in from an international audience watching online. What was particularly striking from all the presentations was that many of the technologies required to start making a real difference to the decarbonisation of energy already exist in the world today, but the outstanding research questions revolve around where and how to best utilize them and what will be the impact on people, communities, wildlife and the natural environment.

The event was help at the M-SParc innovation campus. M-SParc is a key part of the low carbon focus of North Wales, linking to developments taking place on the ‘Energy Island’ of Anglesey. The recently announced £100M Low Carbon Energy Centre of Excellence (Egni) will invest in developing a Low Carbon Energy Centre of Excellence at Bangor University and M-SParc, enhancing the region’s capabilities for research, design and innovation in low carbon energy.

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