There are a plethora of organisations telling us how we can make it to net zero. The things they list the UK and others must do will vary, but they will all be about the update of particular technology. Debates tend to centre on which list is the right one. In the political sphere, the debate has been whether we should be doing this at all. What few focus on is how we can really incentivise change.
Green technology or other measure to reduce our energy use is often unaffordable and rather stressful. “You know where you are with a boiler. Heat pumps, not “How do they work? “, “Do they work?”, “Wouldn’t be a good idea to wait until this was a more established and certainly cheaper technology before you made the change?” It is assumed that kick-starting the manufacture of such products by subsiding them will lead to reduced costs, but only real scale will do this effectively. Those businesses and individuals who have taken the leap are sometimes struggling to adapt. For example, many are factoring in hours of turnaround time when someone takes one of their electric fleet to another site, in order to recharge for the return journey. At what point will people feel real confidence about their ability to recharge, when they need to, and fast?
It is assumed that once you have legally binding targets agreed, or deadlines when certain technology will no longer be on offer, the job is done. This is nonsense.
If we want to stick to the environmental roadmap that has been set out, we need to recognise just what it will take; huge innovation and products and services that the public will absolutely love. Not just because they are good for the environment, but because they make their lives easier, and reduce their costs. Take renewable energy. It is cheaper. However, that is not reflected in your utility bills. But it could be. Where there are potential exciting benefits to the consumer, we must work faster to make them a reality.
We need to recognise there needs to be better ideas and products to help drive the massive infrastructure investments needed. How can we support the creativity required? The carve-out to ensure tidal power could be developed before it became competitive was the right thing to do.
We need to be clearer about the benefits to the UK economy of this work. So many ideas and inventions have the UK as their cradle, but our manufacturers never get to make or market the resulting products. Our failure to capitalise as a nation is well known. We must address this, not just for our own economic growth but to ensure we are still the cradle of ideas in the future.
And we have to learn from why previous initiatives failed to take off. One example was the Green Investment Bank used to struggle to get Local Authorities to improve its streetlighting or housing stock, even though they could demonstrate the financial return in a short period of time.
In Portsmouth, we have some amazing companies who are creating products, services and financing which does really do the job we need it to. From Lakeside-based Effective Home helping vulnerable households and providing new solutions to landlords, to Zenobe’s fleet testing centre in the Railway Triangle estate. We must champion them.
The task for politicians is not to fight about whether we should be making this transition or listening to the hard-pushed, stressed-out public sector who haven’t the resources to deliver it. The task for us is to enable solutions people will want to adopt. Then sell them to the world.