A clean energy future - achieving the vision

Paul Reeve, Industrial Strategy, UK Clean Growth Strategy, Electric vehicles, ECA
Reeve: Looking ahead with optimism

Paul Reeve outlines the fundamentals of the government’s Industrial Strategy, and what it might mean for the building services sector and its clients.

Towards the end of 2017, the government pub- lished its Industrial Strategy, with the key aim of government and the private sector working together to im- prove UK productivity. This was based on the five chosen themes of “ideas, people, infrastruc- ture, business environment, and prosperous communities”. The Strategy also features “four grand challenges” for what it regards as ‘industries of the future’, which are as follows:

• maximising the advantages for UK industry from the global shift to clean growth;

• being a world leader in shaping the future of mobility;

• putting the UK at the forefront of the artificial intelligence and data revolution; and

• harnessing the power of innovation to help meet the needs of an ageing society.

These challenges clearly include diversified energy and in particular (though not exclusively) electrical energy. Notably, the first two challenges have clear implications for the future of UK energy, and those who operate in this area. The Strategy says that the challenge of “maximising advantages from the global shift to clean growth” will be met by “leading the world in the development, manufacture and use of low carbon technologies, systems and services that cost less than high carbon alternatives”. The current costs and strike prices of certain types of renewables such as tidal barrages, and nuclear, are still high compared to some alternatives. Yet while nuclear and offshore wind get a good airing in the strategy, tidal barrages and onshore wind do not.

The Strategy adds that the UK’s ‘clean economy’, supported by the Paris Carbon Reduction Commitments, could grow at four times the rate of UK GDP (though UK GDP growth is hardly prodigious at present). Further low carbon progress in power, transport, heating and cooling across the UK economy will, we are told, require the reallocation “of trillions of pounds of public and private finance”. While not all the answers will use electrical energy, it’s clear that many will.

Clean growth and tech

The UK Clean Growth Strategy, which sits just behind the Industrial Strategy, sets out ambitious proposals for further low carbon energy progress through the 2020s, with the aim of making the UK “one of the best places in the world to develop and sell clean technologies”. In addition to plans to align policies, markets, regulations, taxes and investments to boost the commercialisation of UK energy technology, the Industrial Strategy makes “clean growth innovation” a priority for its Challenge Fund. The government will, we are advised, also join international initiatives such as ‘Mission Innovation’ – a global partnership for clean energy R&D.

Along with the 2017 electrical ‘Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan’, a new ‘Prospering from the energy revolution’ programme will also aim to help UK businesses to develop smart energy systems that will deliver cheaper low carbon energy. The aim is to “remodel the grid” so that it can handle the multiple challenges and opportunities of:

• a growing array of clean energy sources;

• storing electrical energy;

Paul Reeve, Industrial Strategy, UK Clean Growth Strategy, Electric vehicles, ECA
Decoupling carbon emissions from growth with clean energy

• providing real-time usage data to buyers and users;

• managing demand; and

• supporting vehicle/grid charging.

Electric vehicles

The Strategy appears confident that there will be significant growth in zero emission vehicles, and it also seeks to embark on a ‘Future of Mobility’ Grand Challenge. A zero emissions road transport strategy is expected in 2018 and, and in addition to ‘Faraday Challenge’ funding for battery technology, there will be measures to promote the uptake of zero emission vehicles.

Support for sectors

Finally, the Industrial Strategy aims to support the construction and automotive industries in a shift to clean energy sources and using less environmentally impactful materials. A new ‘Transforming Construction’ programme will harness digital, low carbon and energy-efficient technology. Meanwhile, the government will be looking for measures to strengthen the market for energy efficiency, and incentivise private investment in domestic and commercial energy efficiency. It will be interesting to see how this aligns with 2018 progress with the ‘Each Home Counts’ energy initiative, which contained proposals focused on the residential market.

Carbon emissions have been reduced by more than 40 per cent since 1990, while the economy has grown by two-thirds, successfully ‘decoupling’ carbon emissions from economic growth. This is something that only a decade ago was something of a sustainability dream. We now look ahead with optimism that a clean energy future is within our grasp.

Paul Reeve is ECA director of business.

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