On 4th February 2021 Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan announced £11 million in government funding in the latest round of the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund (EEF). This seeks to drive forward new clean technologies across all sectors of UK industry, turning ideas into ‘clean, green technologies that eliminate carbon emissions.’ This fund hopes to turn ‘green dreams into reality’ and has been issuing grants totalling £72 million since 2012.
According to government guidance, successful projects could ‘create hundreds of green jobs’ and ‘kickstart millions-of-pounds-worth of private sector investment across the UK, helping the country to build back greener as we host the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow’. Unfortunately, the emphasis here seems to be on PR for the government rather than what will be good for the planet.
Highlighted recipients of EEF funding include Leeds-based C-Capture, which has developed processes to capture harmful greenhouse gases. So far so good. But this company is providing ‘an innovative deployment of its technology at the Drax power station in North Yorkshire.’ The Drax power plant has been heavily criticised by environmental campaigners for simply switching from burning one fossil fuel (coal) to another (gas), as well as earning an estimated £2.1m a day from renewable energy subsidies for its controversial biomass units.
The EEF also funded CCm Technologies in Swindon, a company working with Walkers Crisps to implement carbon capture innovations in its factory processes. Interestingly, Chairman of CCm Technologies Gordon Horsfield CBE was also the previous chairman of Drax Group plc.
We’re seeing a pattern here. Build a power plant locking us into fossil fuel production and then greenwash it by funding technology to reduce the harm that plant is doing. Sure, it creates more jobs, but at what cost to the planet?
In February 2021 the UK government also announced a £40 million investment to help the most polluting industries, including steel, pharmaceuticals, food and drink find new ways to reduce their carbon emissions. Through the government’s Industrial Energy Transformation Fund, businesses in these energy-intensive sectors will be able to apply for grants worth up to £14 million — totalling £289 million in funding up until 2024. These grants will enable businesses to improve the efficiency of industrial processes and reduce energy demand through using new technologies.
This is all moving in the right direction, but we need to be funding cleantech entrepreneurs and innovators on a similar scale. The EEF is a programme funded through the BEIS £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio. This £1 billion is great news, but we need to know more. In November 2020, the government promised ‘£200 million for the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio to develop new decarbonisation solutions and accelerate near-to-market low-carbon energy innovations’. When will the rest of the £1 billion be released? Is the £40 million Clean Growth Fund announced in May 2020 included in this figure?
The UK government’s 2020 budget included £27.4 billion for its Road Investment Strategy 2020–2025, including £14.1 billion for new roads and expanding the capacity of existing roads. In this light £1 billion for net zero innovation doesn’t sound so promising.
It takes time for cleantech solutions reversing or reducing the effect of greenhouse gases to be developed and to transition from development to market. Entrepreneurs innovating these technologies need to know how and when this funding will be available and how they can apply for it.
Innovation is vital if we are to reduce and reverse global warming and climate change. Those who have the real passion and know-how to start innovating must be supported and this means having easy access to government funding and private investment. Making sure entrepreneurs have that support is exactly what Green Angel Syndicate is doing.
If you are an entrepreneur fighting climate change, we at GAS would like to hear and understand your experience of applying for public funding. Please email email@example.com with your thoughts. If you know of other climate change innovators and entrepreneurs whose voices should be heard, do pass this on to them. Here are a few questions that might start you off:
- How easy is it to find out about public funding opportunities?
- Is the guidance easy to understand and follow?
- Do you have the time/resources available to apply for that funding?