The Government must provide greater support for research and development into energy efficiency and a greater focus on high-level skills if the UK is to become a world leader and exporter of new technologies in the energy sector, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry has warned.

The call for more help comes in the chamber's submission to the Government's Energy Review, which is looking at both supply and demand and aims to ensure that the UK is able to meet the efficiency and generation goals beyond 2010 set out in the 2003 White Paper.

The chamber points out that climate change has become an increasingly important issue and that the real challenge for the UK is to provide a secure energy supply for both individuals and businesses while cutting carbon emissions and meeting tough climate change targets at the same time.

The deadline for responses to the energy review is this week and Charlotte Ritchie, policy executive at the Chamber, said: "For some time, Birmingham Chamber has been concerned that the urgency of energy issues is failing to be fully recognised in a clear short-term, mid-term and long-term UK strategy.

"It is vital the Government sets out and maintains an integrated policy that deals with all industry sectors in order to provide an efficient, workable and sustainable energy policy."

The chamber says that it is vital that the development and maintenance of a wide range of energy sources are promoted to avoid the vulnerability of over dependence on one prime source.

"A balance of energy sources needs to be found, including renewables, coal, gas and nuclear," Ms Ritchie said.

"Our members believe that the commissioning of new nuclear build needs to be done as soon as possible, as well as a thorough investigation into revitalising the UK's coal industry to provide a diverse and secure energy supply in the long term.

"Although nuclear energy could be more expensive than carbon fuel sources in the medium term, this might be the price for meeting Kyoto targets and reducing the level of carbon emissions in the UK.

"New technology is the key to reducing emissions in an economically viable way and research and development support for technological solutions to reduce emissions must be significantly enhanced.

"Not only will new technology allow the UK to meet its own emissions reduction targets, but it will also provide opportunities to export to those developing countries where emissions levels are increasing.

"Although we understand the need for the focus on basic skills, unless there is sufficient focus on higher-level skills for the energy sector, which is reliant on highly skilled work-ers, the potential for energy diversification and energy-based industries is not positive."

The chamber says in its response that West Midlands, with its strong manufacturing base, has a crucial role to play in the development of the energy industry as far as alternative fuels and the reduction of carbon emissions is concerned. It urges the Government to look at what it can do to provide the necessary support to the businesses involved.

"The Government's review is a real opportunity to help shape the future of the UK's energy policy and ensure that businesses do not continue to be adversely affected by high energy costs or damaging interruptions to their energy supplies," Ms Ritchie said. ..SUPL: