Q66 Chair: Under the “Whole systems” area of spending under figure 7 on page 37, some of those could be behavioural strategy. I do not know whether maybe Ms Munby would be best placed to identify which of those are. Does pathways to net zero cover behavioural strategy—or digital and data? Is there any behavioural strategy in this to help focus on researching that, to pick up on Ms Morris’s points?
Dr Adikaari: There is quite a bit of work going on looking at the behavioural interventions we could use to achieve carbon budgets or a reduction in carbon emissions. Quite a number of those programmes are at quite an early stage as well. If you look at the delivery plan, most of them are run by UKRI, but they are wide-ranging as well. Some of them are directly relevant to certain consumer sectors; others are quite diverse. There is not one specific one.
Q67 Chair: But behavioural strategy is being funded by some of this research money.
Dr Adikaari: It is, yes.
Q68 Peter Grant: Dr Adikaari, I just wanted to come back to the answer you gave to one of Ms Morris’s questions about evaluation. Just to be clear, were you describing what happens to projects within your own Department’s portfolio, as opposed to what happens more widely? It is an important distinction because the concern that was picked up in the NAO Report was about the fact that, although individual Departments will be doing evaluation, there did not seem to be an overarching evaluation of the whole thing. Just to be clear, you were talking about the evaluation of projects within your own Department.
Dr Adikaari: That is right. The key performance indices and the mechanism I set out was for the £1 billion investment from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. Other funding organisations and Departments have their own mechanisms of evaluation and may be diverse as to how they approach them. It depends on the level of readiness of the technologies they are investing in. It is a wide-ranging, diverse approach. The Innovation Delivery Board is the mechanism for us to ensure that there is sufficient learning from good practice and, at the same time, the overall portfolio level approach is sufficient.
Q69 Peter Grant: It is maybe worth putting on the record at this meeting that the NAO highlighted a number of examples of good practice within the Department. Mr Pocklington, I do not know whether you are going to cut out that page, frame it and put it on your wall.
Jeremy Pocklington: Credit to Dr Adikaari and the team for their work here, and the wider support from the analysts. Some other Departments have very similar approaches as well. As part of preparing for this hearing, I was looking at what the Department for Transport does, and it follows quite a similar approach to us. It is the Innovation Delivery Board that is pulling together learnings from all these evaluations.
Q70 Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: Let me start with a simple question. Mr Pocklington, why is the British Business Bank, which is going to play a major part in financing all this innovation, not on the innovation board?
Jeremy Pocklington: The approach we have is that the British Business Bank and the UK Investment Bank attend some meetings, but they are not permanent members attending every meeting. They are invited when the agenda is appropriate. That is the position.
Q71 Chair: They are not excluded from the room.
Jeremy Pocklington: They are not excluded, no.
Q72 Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: No, good. What we have not discussed this morning at all is the role of regulators. Given that this is a fast-moving scene, are the regulators going to be given a sufficiently fast-moving remit to be able to keep up with all this?
Jeremy Pocklington: It is a very good question about ensuring that regulatory frameworks can keep pace with the adaptation that is happening. The first thing to say is that, for my sector, Ofgem has its own budgets. It provides support to research and innovation, which is outside of this programme, but it is also involved and we co-ordinate with that. Ofgem has a £450 million strategic innovation fund, but there is also the question about the regulations themselves. While it is not concluded by any means, there is a big programme under way to ensure that the regulatory framework can bring forward the investment that we need, and then allow the market to develop in a way that is sufficiently flexible in order to make sure it is at least cost possible to consumers.
Sarah Munby: Perhaps the only thing I would add is that we are just in the final stages of completing, on a cross-Government basis, the Government chief scientific adviser’s review. That was originally the Vallance review, and the work is now being taken on by Angela McLean, looking at exactly this question more broadly.
Climate and energy is one of the topics looked at within that, but there are others, such as life sciences. Across the picture, we are looking at how to make sure that the UK’s regulatory system is enabling innovation. There are a huge number of facets to that, as you know, but I just thought it was worth mentioning that piece of work.
Q73 Chair: Does that cover all the science side of it? There are other bits of regulation.
Sarah Munby: No, it is specific: it is regulation; it is not science. It was led by the chief scientific adviser to provide an independent voice, but it was not science-related. It is about regulation for innovation.
Dr Adikaari: I just want to come in, especially on Ofgem and its role. Mr Pocklington is right that the funding is different—it is publicly funded as opposed to billpayer-funded—however, in the work the NAO did, part of that spend that the Government earmarked for the period of this spending review is included. Ofgem has a seat at the Net Zero Innovation Board as well, precisely because of the importance of the significant amount of funding that it invests, as well as the importance of the power sector and the regulatory powers that Ofgem has.
We work with other regulators as well. For example, if we think about nuclear research, we provide funding for the regulators to upskill themselves, in order to ensure that they have sufficient capability and investment to build to what is to come.
Q74 Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: I am going to ask this question to Mr Pocklington, Ms Munby and Mr Field. Ms Morris went some way towards this. Given that this is a very fast-moving subject, and the International Energy Agency estimates that half of all carbon savings will come from a technology yet to be developed, we cannot know quite where all this is going. It is a bewilderingly complicated subject, for which Parliament, on behalf of the public, needs to hold all the wheels in Government to account.
There are and always will be so many different parts of this. There are so many different Departments and so many different budgets. Is there any way that we can bring this all together in one document, with some sort of milestones towards 2050, so that Parliament can see whether the Government, on its behalf, is delivering and going to reach 2050? How can we do this so that Parliament can hold all of you to account?
Jeremy Pocklington: Ultimately, we are going to need to think about a nested layer of plans and strategies rather than a single document. The overarching document is the net zero growth strategy. That is the Government’s overall response to meeting its carbon budgets, but that is not going to give all the detail that Parliament needs, which other interested parties and businesses need as well.
Only a few weeks ago, I was here before this Committee talking about the power sector. I agreed with the NAO’s recommendation that we need to bring together the multiple plans for the power sector more towards a delivery plan around the power sector. That will take time and iterations to grow, but that is a huge exercise in itself.
The research and innovation plans that we have are already pretty weighty documents. The framework itself is a weighty document. The delivery plan underpinning it is also a pretty weighty document. This is such a big, complicated area that that is ultimately how we best need to think about it. It is all underpinning the overarching approach to meeting our carbon budgets.
Q75 Chair: Sometimes a commentary in plain English is needed, just to say that we have invested this much in this much research and this is what did not work—to humanise this. As a number of colleagues have said, sometimes it feels very up here; it is very Whitehall; it is very research-focused. Obviously, Parliament may want to see more detail, but we need a public‑facing narrative about how Government are achieving these ends.
Sarah Munby: I was going to go down the same path. This is a good start. Given its age, we are not quite ready to say, “This is how it is all going. This is a 2022 to 2025 document.” In the area of integrated thinking about R&D and our ability to explain the priorities, this is a good example of progress.
Q76 Chair: Can I just pick up on carbon capture, utilisation and storage, which I first came across as carbon capture and storage back in about 2011? We have two failed programmes and one that never quite got off the ground. We are still pursuing it. It is regarded as critical by you all and by Government. It is regarded as critical by the Climate Change Committee, but it has not yet taken off anywhere in the world. Are we just going to keep throwing good money after bad on this?
Jeremy Pocklington: If I may, it is not correct to say that there are no carbon capture and storage projects anywhere in the world. We discussed this at a previous hearing. I was there with Mr Ibbett, who had visited and told you examples of that.
Q77 Chair: It is not commercially used.
Jeremy Pocklington: It is correct to say that we have not succeeded in developing it yet in the UK, although the technology is proven. We are at risk of repeating the previous hearing. We have negotiations under way. We have eight projects in negotiation around the two clusters. I have talked to HighNet. We have the east-coast cluster as well.
Q78 Chair: We have been round that block before. What is going to be different this time?
Jeremy Pocklington: What is different this time, including in response to a very old NAO Report, is that we have agreed with the Treasury a £20 billion whole-lifetime budget that provides certainty around funding. It is an appropriate long-term budget for the late-stage commercialisation that Mr Field has already referred to.
Chair: We could go round this block again several times.
Q79 Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: I am sure we will before it comes to fruition, Chair.
Mr Field, I want you to build on the question that I asked about how Parliament can get a handle on how we are tracking towards 2050. Of course, these documents are extremely helpful, but I draw attention again to the first sentence in paragraph 2.17: “The complexity of public sector funding will make it hard for DESNZ and the Innovation Delivery Board to track spending.” If the NAO is saying that, it is very hard for Parliament, let alone the public, to track whether this £4.5 billion you are spending in this expenditure round is beginning to put us on track to achieve 2050. How can the Treasury produce a document to Parliament, so that Parliament can see, on behalf of the public, that we are on track to meet our 2050 targets?
Steve Field: I risk repeating what my colleagues have said. The nature of this is that it is complex. There is no getting away from that. It is a transition that involves every part of the economy. It is not a straight line that you can map out from A to B. We are converging on a point in 2050. At the moment, there are a number of different routes to get there.
Inevitably, we are going to be in a world where we have to set out a broad strategy. That strategy is going to iterate over time. Plans are going to sit beneath that broader strategy. That is always going to be the case. Can we get better at articulating that? Hopefully, as we get closer to the point we are converging on, it becomes easier anyway, but I am sure we can do more to explain and articulate this better. That is something we have endeavoured to do in this area of research through the delivery plan and so on. Can we do more? I am sure there is more we can do, but it is always going to be quite a complicated picture, I am afraid.
Q80 Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: Again, repeating what the International Energy Agency said, half of all carbon emissions are going to be delivered by technologies not yet known. This is inevitably a dynamic process, so all of you have to think very carefully about how we can produce a document that is explainable to Parliament and the public. I agree with you that it will not be a linear line. We have to think very carefully about how we produce a document so that Parliament can see whether we are on track to meet those targets.