pounds 5m for research into low carbon science; AUNIVERSITY VIEW.
ENERGY is as important to Wales' future as it has been to its past.
Wales now has the potential to exploit a range of low carbon energy production technologies, including wave power, wind power, solar power and biomass. We also have opportunities to reduce energy demand across all sectors, principally transport, industry and heating, and the cooling, ventilating and lighting of our buildings. It is important that these opportunities are realised if we are to reduce our carbon emissions, mitigate catastrophic climate change and have a secure energy supply for the future.
From this month, the Higher Education Funding Council For Wales has provided pounds 5.1m in funding to establish a Low Carbon Research Institute for Wales. The project is led by the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University in partnership with Bangor School of Chemistry, Cardiff School of Engineering, Glamorgan Sustainable Environment Research Centre and Swansea School of Engineering. The institute will build on energy research capacity and facilities around the existing areas of low carbon and energy expertise in Wales whilst looking to expand research activities into other energy-related areas.
A major focus will be placed on reducing energy demand from fossil fuels, using energy more efficiently throughout the economy, in industry, commerce and in the built environment. On average, the built environment uses 50% of all fossil fuel energy. The Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) has declared that all new buildings in Wales will be zero carbon from 2011, which means they will be extremely energy efficient and use "green" energy from renewable sources. WAG also has aspirations to reduce carbon emissions throughout Wales by 3% per annum. Building regulations will be devolved to Wales so that targets can be met sooner than in the rest of the UK. The Low Carbon Research Institute will work with the Assembly and the construction industry to help achieve these aims.
There are already excellent examples of low carbon buildings in Wales. The design award-winning Gateway building on the Baglan Energy Park was constructed in 2000 and incorporates low energy design with its own electrical generation from photo-voltaic panels walia Housing's Plas y Mor home for the elderly also has a low energy demand coupled with biomass heating and solar water heating, and this was achieved within existing cost yardsticks.
The institute will also explore ways of reducing energy demand in existing buildings, such as Warm Wales' programme of installing energy efficiency measures in homes in Neath Port Talbot and Wrexham.
Research on low and zero carbon supply technologies at the institute will focus on low carbon energy generation, storage and distribution.
For example, we are currently looking at the feasibility of a large scale Combined Heat and Power system for the National Assembly, university and city buildings in Cathays Park, Cardiff.
The institute will seek to establish partnerships with industry, research organisations, government and local communities. It will contribute to WAG's cross-cutting theme of sustainability and support its science policy for the development of a low carbon economy.
The institute will also promote Wales collectively as an international showcase for sustainable low carbon energy technology to reduce carbon emissions in Wales and worldwide.
The development of knowledge and skills to create a highly skilled workforce in the energy field to operate and maintain the emerging technologies is fundamental to achieving a low carbon future.
The institute will provide benefits to the energy industry's needs in Wales, while also establishing the country as a real force in the field of international energy research.
We see the Low Carbon Research Institute as a real commitment in Wales by the universities and the Assembly to become a major player in low carbon research, which is very much part of the climate change debate.
Professor Phil Jones is head of school at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University