Launch event and report Business and political leaders call for £5bn for energy revolution

By Kevin Boon

REAL attended the launch event for the UK100 report “Accelerating the Rate of Investment in Local Energy Projects” held on 13 July 2020. The speakers were:

Polly Billington – Director UK100

Charles Abel-Smith – UK100

Malcolm Ball – UK100

Kwasi Kwarteng – Minister of State Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy 

Cllr Lisa Mulherin – Leeds City Council (Climate Change, Transport and Sustainable Development)

Emma Harvey – Green Finance Institute (GFI)

Carl Ennis – CEO Siemens UK and Ireland 

UK100 is a network of over 100 ambitious local government leaders, who have pledged to secure the future for their communities by shifting to 100% clean energy by no later than 2050. It connects local leaders to each other, to business and to national government enabling them to showcase their achievements, learn from each other and speak collectively to accelerate the transition to net zero. Their report, sponsored by Siemens and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, involved insight from over 300 industry participants. Emma from GFI described three key report findings as:

  • Demonstrating the importance of designing solutions to unlock barriers to systemic change and investment.
  • The importance of cross-sector collaboration.
  • Community-based solutions are able to deliver far greater impact. 

The UK’s future energy requirements need to be met through a combination of national investment, for example in off-shore wind, and local schemes (link to REAL’s CAT ZCB article). Investors and developers in local projects are constrained by inconsistencies in policy and regulation and lack of development capital.  The Prime Minister has committed £5 billion to COVID-19 recovery. UK100 believe that, if this money provided development capital for local, low-carbon projects, it could bring in £100 billion of private investment. UK100 and GFI propose that support would be best delivered through a Net Zero Development Bank. This would develop local project streams through government funding with government guarantees to bring in local private capital. This bank would differ from the previous Green Investment Bank which did not fund development and focused on large scale infrastructure. UK100 suggest that, in addition to setting up a net zero policy team, the government needs to provide clarity on the investment needed to meet the Committee for Climate Change net zero objectives.

Off-shore wind has proved to be a great success in terms of scaling-up technology. It has been driven by a government designed mechanism for private capital to be directed to it. The minister recognised the importance of local schemes in achieving net zero. The government has been successfully attracting investment through local energy hubs. However, these hubs need to get involved in local energy systems; to date they have focused on technology. 

Leeds City Council provides a great example of action being taken at a local level. After declaring a climate emergency in March 2019, the council set out an ambition of being net zero by 2030. There has been public consultation, development of an action plan and a citizens’ jury. There is a district heating programme using energy from waste. With regional partners the council is looking at the scope for using hydrogen. However, despite some success in securing external funding, significant government support is needed. The council recognise that a just transition is also important. This means the creation of low-carbon, well-paid jobs.