Leading the Charge to net zero

Paul Reeve is director of CSR at engineering services body ECA

We are all too aware of the energy price shock. But sometimes forgotten in the current crisis is the contribution low carbon technologies make to lowering energy bills. Business investment in such technologies can significantly reduce lighting, heating and transport costs. And as energy costs soar, the payback time on investments such as LED lighting can sometimes be measured in months. What’s more, the commercial opportunities from the transition to clean electricity are enormous.

The country is already seeing the economic benefits of its climate and environmental ambitions. In 2020 alone, businesses in the low carbon and renewable energy sectors generated £41.2bn in turnover, directly employing 207,8001 full-time equivalent employees and up to half a million when associated supply chains are included.2

The UK has legally binding targets for reducing net zero. By 2030 the sales of new petrol and diesel cars are set to end. And by 2035 the UK may be powered entirely by clean electricity. With these interim goals in mind, the electrotechnical industry will, arguably, be one of the key players in realising the UK’s 2050 net zero target.

Leading the Charge is a digital series produced in partnership between ECA (the Electrical Contractors’ Association) and Content With Purpose (CWP). It is raising awareness of the progress already underway within the sector and highlighting the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Following the launch of the series at the Royal Society on 13 September, the documentary is available at leadingthecharge.eca.co.uk. It is a series of films, interviews and podcasts from industry leaders. These include BSRIA chief executive Julia Evans, ECA chief executive Steve Bratt, Electrical Safety First chief executive Lesley Rudd and Sustainable Energy Association chief executive Jade Lewis. Industry heavyweights including Megger, Luceco Group, Robinson and Lawler, and MA Broughton also feature in the series.

To meet our net zero goals, the UK clearly needs to shift away from fossil fuels towards clean electricity. Many of the low carbon technologies designed to reduce our collective emissions, including electric vehicles and heat pumps, rely on electricity. So further substantial changes will be made to infrastructure to support a clean, safe, electrified future.

Leading the Charge participant National Grid is already investing nearly £7bn to modernise our power distribution networks to meet the increased demand as transport and heating become electrified.

In addition to increased demand for power, the grid needs to work in new ways to enable generation, storage and distribution of clean energy throughout the network. Designed for centralised fossil fuel power generation, the grid must become even more agile to exploit renewable energy sources. Leading the Charge features stories from businesses including TNEI, UK Power Network, Actemium and Data Communications Company covering the innovative connection and monitoring solutions required to drive the industry towards net zero.

While Leading the Charge shines a spotlight on the technological advances under way within the industry, it also provides an opportunity to create a conversation around the sector’s future. To meet the demands of a safe, electrified society and decarbonised grid, we need a workforce with the professional skills to deliver the required solutions. To achieve this requires a combination of upskilling the existing workforce and delivering specialist apprenticeships. Companies such as JTL are in the vanguard of this provision. Raising awareness of the funding and training available is vital to the development of a strong and successful workforce.

There is no doubt the electrotechnical industry has the expertise, ambition and technology available to meet the 2050 target. However, the message is clear: to succeed we need collaboration. No one can do this by themselves.

Independent electrical, mechanical and facilities management company 24-7 Group works in partnership with businesses. Its in-house design and delivery teams engage as early as possible, to provide a building that works for its clients – supermarkets, hotels, schools, universities and leisure facilities – but also one that will consume the least energy with minimal environmental impact.

We collaborate well when we listen to and learn from each other. Leading the Charge aims to inspire others with real-life stories of collaboration.

Throughout the series, industry leaders tell us collaboration and a safe transition must be underpinned by more robust guidance from the government. The electrotechnical industry is asking for joined-up regulation and a framework to enable collective action towards net zero.

While much is already under way, we need more people with the right skills, more collaboration and more urgency if we’re going to deliver net zero on time.

Communication is key to inspiring the confidence to make the changes ahead. We hope you enjoy Leading the Charge, and it moves the dial towards net zero and greater energy efficiency.

We are releasing Leading the Charge content on our social channels each week until Christmas.

To view the series so far follow #LeadingtheCharge or visit our YouTube channel www.youtube.com/user/ECALive.

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