John O’Neill, Director of Technical Excellence for NICEIC & ELECSA, discusses the challenges of today and the opportunities of tomorrow.
Back in January – when COVID-19 was something happening on the other side of the world – I wrote an article looking at what, as we entered a new decade, the industry wants and needs. While the points I made about competency and commitment are still very much at the core of what we do, I wanted to revisit this piece in light of the current circumstances.
Living through this period and having to manage the realities that come with it is both unsettling and extremely challenging. Many of us are facing the devastating loss of loved ones, while all of us are struggling to keep ourselves and our families safe. Add to this, the enormous economic impact which reaches every sector of society, and it is fair to say life has changed considerably.
In response to the current pandemic, we have focused on keeping our customers and the public safe. Switching to remote assessments, cancelling all live events and providing assets such as technical webinars and our ‘guide to working safely video’ which offers practical guidance relating to working in people’s homes.
Yes we are facing difficulties, and yes there are massive restrictions on what is currently achievable. However, new opportunities are opening up within our sector key examples being the legislation relating to the private rental sector and a renewed emphasis on the low carbon/ net zero agenda.
In many ways, this pandemic has provided a window into how the future could look as we witness the planet respond to this forced reduction in pollution. With global carbon usage dropping by 17% to levels previously seen in 2006, and UK numbers tumbling by 13% the air quality has improved, and nature is thriving.
We believe as we emerge from this crisis, the world will once again turn its attention to dealing with the issue of CO2 reduction and meeting the targets set out by ours and other governments around the world. To do this successfully, there will be a mass shift towards electricity, which will become a dominant power source for transport and an even greater force in powering our homes and buildings.
We will see an increased demand for renewable energy generation, such as solar, wind and hydro. New technology introductions will play a more significant role in how we heat and use energy in our homes. We will see a shift towards electric heat pumps, which are around three times more efficient than gas boilers. Home-based renewable power will also play a part as will SMART technologies which will control how energy and appliances are used within the home.
When it comes to transport the revolution is already underway with all vehicle manufacturers siting electric vehicles in their current and future plans. Of course, the success of this change will be dependent on the provision of a fit for purpose public and home charging infrastructure – something our industry will be instrumental in providing.
It is wise to prepare, and arm ourselves with the knowledge needed to ensure this shift happens seamlessly and safely. We must build upon this and upskill in areas such as renewable technologies, SMART installations, and EV charging to ensure we future proof our industry and our nation.
While I understand this will not be a priority at the moment, as businesses and contractors struggle with the problems of here, and now, it is essential not to lose sight of the future and the opportunities it holds.
NICEIC and ELECSA are committed to guiding contractors and the industry through current and future challenges.
We hope to bring news of a return to a “new normal” very soon – but come what may we will adapt, respond, and continue to deliver the support our customers and the industry needs to thrive and improve. Please stay safe and stay alert.
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