Over the last week I have set out some thoughts on how we could build ourselves capacity in the main networks across the downturn, largely using private money. The public sector needs to be a speedier and more helpful regulator, and to spend from within existing budgets intelligently to maximise private sector response.
One of the big issues the government needs to speed is what will be the role of new technology and new projects in the future of the UK? Again this is not a case of the government needing to spend more money. Much fo the development and all of the production can be paid for by the private sector. It is a case of the government being a well informed purchaser of technology for its own purposes, and a good regulator capable of allowing and even initiating the right kind of projects which the public sector can bid for and accomplish.
There are a number of large schemes around on drawing boards and in dreamers and designers minds. The government has set out ten different possible projects as options for harnessing the tidal power of the Severn estuary â€“ but wants to take two years consulting and thinking about it. Two years is a common time period for thought these days, taking decisions beyond the next Election. Some people want to build new islands in the Thames estuary, and some even want to put a new London airport on one, others favour a new bridge between Kent and Essex as part of the package. There are schemes of drawing boards for new reservoirs, new desalination plants, new power stations, schemes for clean coal technology and carbon storage, schemes for more renewable power and greater energy efficiency, schemes for local and micro generation and for more water capture from each household roof. The private sector is alive with proposals to make the world cleaner, greener, more fuel efficient..
Some of these will be developed and hammered out in the market place with no government involvement. Others are large, need a government view and government permits of various kinds. Some need the government to organise competitions around the permits it is prepared to grant, as it will have to create artificial scarcity as part of its planning view. No Minister has managed to bring these issues to sensible conclusions or to provide an overarching vision of the role of technology in solving these network and supply issues, backed up by administrative speed and competence to make something happen on the ground. |Letâ€™s hope sometime soon the penny drops. Technology is in an exciting phase. It can solve some of these problems if government wishes it to.