The climate has and will continue to change. We now know that our energy driven carbon footprint has speeded those changes. It is right therefore we should take such steps as we can to mitigate that impact, not just for its own sake to ensure habitats remain viable but, at least as important now, to secure our domestic energy supply using energy sources we own, rather than importing energy which has proved a risky high-cost business. We should also take advantage of the business opportunity this creates to innovate to address these two challenges. Right now Britain leads the way – and particularly here in the South West!
But we need to do this in a pragmatic affordable way for families. The net zero target date of 2050 can be achieved. But we need to let technology do the heavy lifting and we need to prioritise putting supporting infrastructure in place before asking households to invest in these changes. The Prime Minister’s recent announcements on delaying the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars until 2035, delaying the phasing out of off-grid gas boilers, scraping policies to force landlords to upgrade the energy efficiency of their properties, and raising the Boiler Upgrade Grant to £7,500 will help households with the financial burdens that the transition to Net Zero brings.
Many rural homes are not suitable for Heat Pumps, and the last thing families should be thinking about in the current economic climate is having to allocate £10,000 - £15,000 for energy performance upgrades in three years’ time. We must have alternatives that allow us to properly heat all rural homes, whilst still achieving the emissions reductions we need. The government has taken some interim steps to do this within the Energy Bill, to allow schemes for off-gas grid properties to switch to renewable liquid fuels to be established. The delayed phasing out of off-grid boilers to reduce emissions gives time for these schemes to be set up, to be financially accessible to those who need them, and to ensure that the supply of energy is reliable for those using it. The government is aligning us with other major economies and balancing our domestic interests.
Before people will transition to electric cars, we need to have put in place much better charging infrastructure – the delay in banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars will help us do that. We need to think through how a traditional petrol station will work – at the moment electric points here are too few, badly maintained and charging takes too long. We also need to look at investing in battery technology to increase travel distance and reduce battery weight. The Jaguar Land Rover Gigafactory is a start. We certainly don’t want to be reliant on China for our batteries going forward. And the national grid has to be upgraded as the PM recognised and supports!
Our housing stock is old, much older than that in other European countries. That means getting them up to modern standards will take more time and without technology be prohibitively expensive. So the EPC grades for energy efficiency which we inherited from Europe don’t work here. They need rewording and we need a proper strategy and plan for improving energy efficiency. It’s not as simple as putting in loft insulation. We need new innovative solution to deal with cobb and stone walls, thatch and single pane listed windows and homes with no damp course. Some of the changes will include planning changes. Listed properties cannot install double glazed window panes. This should be automatically approved. If more were put in the cost would come down.
And there is still much to do to develop alternative fuels to natural gas – whether different types of hydrogen or an alternative. Our scientists have a huge challenge ahead – but we can do it! An economic and environmental win!
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