Following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s announcement regarding exemptions and delays to several of the Government’s ‘Net Zero’ strategy targets, key figures within the electrotechnical sector have given their opinions.
ECA cautions against net zero targets becoming political football
Leading electrotechnical trade body, ECA, says confidence in investing in net zero business and training would be boosted if UK’s net zero targets were depoliticised.
ECA’s Member firms and others in the sector have invested heavily in anticipation of the 2030 and 2035 net zero targets on EV infrastructure, battery storage, solar PV and low energy heating. Until now, business has welcomed the political and industry consensus on net zero and the clear roadmap to achieve this.
As business confidence and investment rely on a consistent approach by governments, ECA believes net zero targets should be depoliticised. This will allow the UK’s national Parliaments to work together with industry to develop the policies, technologies and skills needed to reach net zero.
Paul Reeve, ECA’s Director of CSR, commenting on the Prime Minister’s announcement said: “Rishi Sunak’s overall direction of travel towards achieving net zero has not changed. But a delay in the timescale will undoubtably shake the confidence and plans of many large and small businesses alike, not to mention consumers.
“The new timetable gives more time to decarbonise and develop the UK grid. Instead of focusing on one or two low carbon fixes, it’s an opportunity to move to a ‘technology agnostic’ approach, by installing the most energy efficient solutions.
“It’s also a chance for the government’s overdue review of electricity pricing – to make it fairer for households adopting low carbon electrical technology – to get back on track.
“Alongside this, the UK’s EV charging infrastructure must be significantly ramped up to satisfy customer demand and meet crucial safety standards”.
Existing technologies can already deliver the carbon savings needed to reach 2050 net zero targets. A much greater obstacle to achieving the targets, not mentioned in the PM’s statement, is the shortage of competent professionals to install these technologies.
While ECA welcomes the Prime Minister’s boost for research and development, it will do little to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions in the short term. Investment in training and skills cannot wait if the UK wants to stay ahead of the net zero curve. Industry needs certainty to invest in the training needed for a safe transition to a low carbon economy.
Watered down net zero plan is bump not a road block, says GTEC
Griff Thomas, from leading renewables training provider, GTEC, comments: “When the Prime Minister expressed a desire to roll-back carbon reduction targets I was alarmed. I stated that the UK needs to ‘hold its nerve when it comes to Net Zero’, and it still does.
“Now the reality of his position has been communicated following the recent press conference, it seems that his proposals are bumps in the road, which, if navigated properly could still see Britain leading the way when it comes to combatting climate change.
“I am saddened that we are here… historic failures in the green policy of both parties have led us to this point, and with better plans in place initially, we would not be in this position of backtracking. I do, however see that some of Mr. Sunak’s suggestions have been put forward to avoid further failure.
“Green policy gone wrong creates distrust and serves only to damage the reputation of renewables and other sustainability initiatives, feeding into the hands of climate change deniers. Poorly executed policy also leads to disengaged voters, which may be more of the inspiration behind the Prime Minister’s current management of expectations…
“We are at a crossroads as a country, we have a real opportunity to change the way we power and heat our homes and businesses. The technology is there and more than ever before, consumer support is there. Highlighting our relatively small contribution to climate change in percentage terms, as Mr. Sunak did , is not helpful, it makes people feel powerless, that there’s no point. We should strive for excellence and take a position of leading on climate change action.
“We need open conversations and schemes that help smooth the way – the uplift the Boiler Upgrade Scheme funding was a welcome announcement – while protecting the most vulnerable in society who have been hit by rising fuel prices over recent years. Let’s not forget the ultimately, greening our grid will lead to reduced energy bills.
“Right now, there are far simpler steps that will make the most inefficient of homes warmer and less costly. Insulation and draft proofing should be a priority – an area that GTEC is moving into to support our low carbon heating installation courses.
“We need a pragmatic and proportionate approach to Net Zero that doesn’t abandon targets, but better considers and supports the people that these targets effect. Hopefully this is what our government is now focused on; the important bigger picture that should have nothing to do with winning elections.”
Schneider to continue its commitment to the transition
Kelly Becker, Zone President at Schneider Electric UK & Ireland, said: “Schneider Electric is committed to supporting the transition to net zero to address the climate crisis. We’re seeing indications from businesses in the UK and Ireland that trends towards electrification, automation and digitisation show no signs of slowing down, and we will continue to enable these trends in service of net zero and a strong green economy for the UK in the future.”
Investors need certainty and commitment from Government, says BEAMA
BEAMA CEO, Yselkla Farmer, said: “Investors need certainty and commitment from Government. UK Net Zero targets represent a huge opportunity for employment and inward investment in the UK energy sector (see 2022 Net Zero Supply Chain report), and this is only possible with ambition. The automotive industry and associated infrastructure providers have already brought forward significant investments to meet the 2030 targets and this is ensuring the UK takes a leading role in this sector.
“A move by Government to backtrack on these plans will stall investment, and worsen the growing distrust in policy that industry feels today. The recent move by Government to retract UKCA deadlines is another example of a big hit to industry who have invested millions in preparing for a longstanding ambitious government target. What we need is stability and certainty; without it, our economic strength in the energy and climate sectors globally will be depleted.”