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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 September 2006, 08:19 GMT 09:19 UK
Plans launched for energy centre
By Pallab Ghosh
Science correspondent, BBC News

Ellington Colliery in Northumberland
The institute will look for ways to reduce fossil fuel dependence
The UK government has published details of its plans to create a 1bn energy research institute.

The centre will investigate ways of generating electricity that minimise the emissions of carbon gases which scientists say are warming the planet.

To be known as the Energy Technologies Institute, it will be funded by energy companies and the government.

The firms committed to the project so far include BP, Shell, EDF Energy and EO.N UK.

The Department of Trade and Industry has already promised to provide half of the overall funding for the institute - up to 500m over the next decade.

BP, EDF, E.ON UK and Shell have each offered 5m per year.

With the launch of the prospectus, Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling has called on other private sector companies to come forward.

"If you take wind farm technology, for example, there's a lot of small companies who individually do lots of things," he told BBC News. "We need to bring that together.

"If we bring together what government does, what companies like Shell, BP do, if we bring that together, we've got a better chance of pooling expertise, speeding up the development of these things," Mr Darling said.

The initial aim for the new centre will be to improve the efficiency of burning fossil fuels.

It will also fund the development of new energy saving techniques, and look for ways to produce more efficient renewable generation technologies.

Iain Conn, BP Group managing director, said: "The institute will help us share experience and knowledge between public and private sectors to enable development of new technologies."

Experts predict that in 25 years global energy use will have shot up by 50%, largely because of the growth of the Indian and Chinese economies.

Unless new and better ways are found to generate electricity, heat buildings and power vehicles, this rise in demand will be met by an even greater use of fossil fuels.

Worldwide, public funding of energy research has been cut by a half since 1980 and in the UK it is now a 10th of what it used to be. The proposed new investment by government and industry is an attempt to reverse that trend.

Critics, though, say that research alone will not be enough. They argue that only a carbon levy to increase the cost of fossil fuels will bring about the cuts in emissions that will be needed.

The intention to create the Energy Technologies Institute was announced in the Budget on 22 March 2006.

The DTI is inviting companies to express interest in participating in the institute by the end of November. A director will be selected to provide day-to-day leadership. It is expected that the institute will be fully operational by 2008.

It is not known yet where the institute will be hosted.

Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling on the plans

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