A comment on the Prime Minister’s speech of 21/05/2018
Last Monday saw Theresa May speak at the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank on science and modern Industrial Strategy. She outlined the government’s four Grand Challenges, all of which contribute to putting “the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future”. There is a sharper focus being put on Artificial Intelligence and data, our ageing society, the UK’s clean growth, and the future of transport technologies.
Particularly pertinent to the energy and sustainability industry is the topic of “clean growth”, a scheme proposed in the government’s Clean Growth Strategy of October 2017. The Grand Challenge looks to utilise new technologies and methods of construction to slash energy usage of new builds by half. May’s speech on Monday highlighted that, currently, heating and powering buildings totals 40% of our energy use as a nation, so any changes we can make in this area will have a significant impact. The aim is to not only reduce household bills, but to meet CO2 reduction targets, with a focus on updating older buildings to become more energy-efficient. Energy UK agreed, suggesting that many households “waste money trying to heat existing draughty properties” and that energy efficiency needs to be looked into as a “national infrastructure priority”.
“The Industrial Strategy sets its sights on our future, not our past”
Alongside clean growth, another Grand Challenge is that of the “future of mobility”. The Industrial Strategy sets a goal of making “our towns and cities cleaner, safer and more productive places to live and work”, something which the Prime Minister suggests can be achieved by having all new vehicles free of emissions by 2040. In 2018 so far, around 4,500 electric cars are being registered each month, and diesel cars are predicted to make up only 15% of the market by 2025. Developments in low carbon technologies like electric cars make the zero emissions goal a real possibility, and could contribute to the UK’s green economy growing “at four times the rate of GDP”. If estimates like these are to be believed and come to fruition, the benefits of clean growth and green mobility are clear – far beyond only having a positive environmental impact.
Ultimately, May’s speech outlined a need to “drive innovation and higher standards” in construction and vehicle production, in a bid to reduce our CO2 emissions as a nation. While we’re making some progress, and the Industrial Strategy provides good guidance, it’s clear to see that more work remains to be done before we “transform our future”.