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Net zero must be ‘hard wired’ into COVID-19 recovery

More large infrastructure projects will be needed to reach net zero, like offshore wind.

More large infrastructure projects will be needed to reach net zero, like offshore wind.

Energy efficiency, electric vehicles (EVs) and digitalisation should be at the heart of the COVID-19 recovery according to National Grid ESO director Fintan Slye.

Any investment package should have the joint ambition of stimulating the economy following the current crisis and accelerating the transition to net zero.

“As well as day to day operation, delivering an electricity system that contributes to the UK meeting its net zero commitments by 2050 is central to our mission,” says Slye. "We play a central role within the industry, looking at what the future may bring and how the market needs to adapt to deliver a greener, more sustainable future.  

"It's therefore crucial that net zero is hard-wired into any recovery plans as we collectively look to reset and restart the economy."

Slye has outlined seven key policy areas that must be a focus going forwards to confront both challenges for the UK. These include improving energy efficiency in housing, as he highlights only 10% of homes currently have a EPC A/B rating. In order to reach net zero by 2050, this number needs to increase to 50% or 14 million homes.

Secondly, more large infrastructure projects will be needed, such as funding carbon capture, utilisation and storage, hydrogen and offshore wind. Investment should also be focused on innovation and R&D for new energy technologies, setting the UK up for long term success.

EVs will be essential for decarbonisation, with 12 million needed on our roads by 2030 and 38 million by 2050. The UK must do more to accelerate the transition, developing interoperable and smart charging infrastructure, following the recommendations from the EV Energy Taskforce.

Similarly, Slye calls on the government to follow the recommendations of the Energy Data Taskforce, and provide a clear roadmap for greater digitalisation.

Prioritising clean jobs will be essential for supporting net zero, with 400,000 jobs needed including 100,000 over the next decade.

Finally, he highlights the need for community engagement, as the energy transition brings significant changes to the lives of those in the UK. By working together with communities this can ensure local considerations are recognised and taken into account.

“These recommendations aren’t a wish list or set of demands, but suggested areas that all stakeholders, including government, could focus on to ensure we build back an inclusive, stronger and more resilient UK economy,” Slye finished.

“We will work constructively with all parties on these issues, keeping the lights on and helping to deliver a safe and secure electricity system that works for all.”

His call joins a slew of other similar recommendations from the likes of Energy UK, the International Energy Agency, the Aldersgate Group, the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group, the Committee on Climate Change and the Confederation of British Industry, along with charities and business groups.


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