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Thu, 22 October 2020

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A Green Recovery can deliver for the economy, society and our planet

A Green Recovery can deliver for the economy, society and our planet

The £3bn for energy efficiency is welcome but we must go further and move faster, in line with advice from scientists like the Committee on Climate Change, says Emma Pinchbeck | Credit: Energy UK

Emma Pinchbeck, Chief Executive | Energy UK

4 min read Partner content

The £3bn for energy efficiency is welcome but we must go further and move faster, in line with advice from scientists like the Committee on Climate Change.

I was appointed as Energy UK’s new chief executive in January. Last week I started work and I am extremely excited to get going.

The delayed start has been due to the Boards of both my previous and new employer enabling me to continue my maternity leave as planned – for which I am extremely grateful. 

In the nine months since my daughter was born, the world has changed.

The flexible working arrangements that helped me to return to a challenging role as a new mother are now also typical in many businesses. Many energy workers have of course though carried on as usual during this time to keep an essential service going - and I feel extremely proud to represent them.   

But while governments focus on the immediate Covid-19 emergency, that other international crisis, the need to urgently decarbonise, has not changed. It may not feel like it but climate change is still THE most challenging issue facing us.

Temperatures as high as 40 degrees have been recorded in the Arctic Circle this summer, which is just one of the many real-world measurements telling us that we are running out of time to limit its worst impacts. 

The good news is that there is a brilliant opportunity for a post Covid-19 recovery that can also deliver on the UK’s net-zero economy-wide decarbonisation target.

As Energy UK stressed in our recent report, it is green choices that deliver the widest benefits for our economy, environment and population - bringing lasting investment, growth and job opportunities right across the country.

It is green choices that deliver the widest benefits for our economy, environment and population

This is why everyone from farmers to financial services, and of course the energy industry, is calling for a Green Recovery. 

As well as well as the opportunity to act, we now have the means.

In the first three months of this year, low carbon sources supplied 62% of our power generation.

Costs have fallen and decarbonisation technologies have scaled up faster than anyone anticipated.

Globally, renewables are now cheap and markets for electric vehicles and energy storage are taking off.

The UK and Italy’s hosting of COP26, the next international negotiations on climate change, may have been delayed by a year but our energy transition will be centre stage. 

In my time at RenewableUK, I saw that green infrastructure has wide economic benefits - beyond cheaper power or a greener economy.

Two thirds of the investment in our amazing offshore wind fleet has gone to communities outside the South East of England, such as Hull, where former fishermen now run maintenance vessels for the renewables industry.

Today, UK businesses export green skills in everything from legal services to technology manufacturing. 

One massive green infrastructure opportunity is the improvement of the UK’s buildings and it was welcome that the Chancellor’s Summer Statement announced a long-awaited investment in energy efficiency measures.  

There are myriad gains from upgrading our old buildings such as cutting bills, improving health, local job creation  and reducing emissions.

Incidentally, many of these cobenefits are not evaluated in current policy making processes, something the net-zero review being undertaken by the Treasury will hopefully rectify. 

The £3bn for energy efficiency is welcome but we must go further and move faster, in line with advice from scientists like the Committee on Climate Change.

We need to make all our buildings fit for the future, invest further in low carbon power, and decarbonise other sectors like transport and agriculture. The forthcoming Energy White Paper, National Infrastructure Plan and Budget must be equal to the net-zero challenge. 

The transformation of the energy industry gives me continued hope that this is possible. Our sector already invests £14 billion a year in the UK and we stand ready to help further.

I look forward to discussing with Parliamentarians how we can work together on the challenges to come.

These are tough times but I find myself, even in the sleep deprivation of new parenthood, energised (pun intended!) by the chance for a Green Recovery that builds a better future for us all. 

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