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Industry is holding the net-zero baby

(Credit: Adobe Stock)

3 min read

Former Labour MP, Natascha Engel, believes net-zero is the defining policy of our generation and it will make or break this next government

Much of the commentary on net-zero policy focuses on the negative: how big, how difficult, how expensive, and how electorally unpopular it all is.

That’s partly true. Net-zero is big and it is difficult. That makes it a challenge but not an impossibility.

Most of the challenge falls on the energy industry, those involved with big infrastructure and their supply chains. Whether they were fans of net-zero or not when the policy first appeared, industry now embraces it. Their businesses have pivoted so far to low-carbon and zero-carbon emissions, that any serious policy deviation would be a disaster for them.

Industry is coming to understand that they have been left holding the net-zero baby – and that it is they who need to make the case for it to policymakers. And the case is simple: net-zero will be what drives growth in our economy and creates employment.

It will keep jobs and industries that might otherwise relocate. It will encourage investment to our regions rather than going to our international competitors. It will help develop technologies that we can export. Oh, and it will save the planet.

“Net-zero is big and it is difficult. That makes it a challenge but not an impossibility”

While industry employs some of the greatest experts and engineers who understand what needs to be done to meet those challenges, they are not policymakers.

Those are the MPs, many of whom have arrived very recently in Westminster for the first time. The vast majority of them will not have been elected by their constituents because of their deep knowledge on energy, infrastructure or net-zero.

So, how do we get industry’s expertise into the hands of MPs and ministers in a format that is user-friendly and big-picture? The new government is going to have to learn fast what the options and implications are.

If we don’t build big nuclear now, we’ll need to ramp up other forms of clean electricity. If we don’t get on with making hydrogen at scale, we will have to import it from elsewhere. If we want to make hydrogen, we need to get going with pipelines, storage and carbon capture.

But MPs will need some basic information to understand these options – for example, the different ways that electricity is generated, how hydrogen is made, distributed and stored, the security implications for the United Kingdom.

As a former MP myself, I know the ridiculous pressures on time, and how hard it is to find short, understandable, factual briefings that lay out options rather than lobby for one solution over another.

We at Palace Yard have brought together a diverse group of industry experts under the umbrella of Pathways to Net Zero to help produce just such briefings that will help MPs understand the basics of energy, where it comes from, how much we use and how we can move from the old energy to the new.

By making energy policy less daunting, we hope that MPs will better be able to see the bright side of net-zero, and better be able to make the case for it themselves.

This article was originally published in The Path To Net Zero supplement circulated alongside The House magazine. To find out more visit The Path To Net Zero hub.

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