The Electrical Contractors Association has warned politicians in the UK to not treat net zero as a ‘political football’, warning that it risks damaging confidence in the UK economy.
The ECA’s intervention comes as the Labour Party confirmed that it would rollback some of the changes announced by Rishi Sunak, with Shadow Climate Secretary, Ed Miliband, even going so far as to say he’d ‘relish fighting an election on net zero‘.
The changes announced by Sunak have been received with disappointment by many environmental campaigners and firms that are heavily invested in sustainability. But the ECA is now calling for calm, and for decarbonisation to be depoliticised — especially since the UK is required to hit its net zero goal by 2050 under a law signed in 2019.
ECA’s member firms and others in the sector have invested heavily in anticipation of the 2030 and 2035 net zero targets on EV infrastructure, battery storage, solar PV and low energy heating. Until now, business has welcomed the political and industry consensus on net zero and the clear roadmap to achieve this.
As business confidence and investment rely on a consistent approach by governments, ECA believes net zero targets should be depoliticised. This will allow the UK’s national Parliaments to work together with industry to develop the policies, technologies and skills needed to reach net zero.
Paul Reeve, ECA’s Director of CSR, commenting on the Prime Minister’s announcement, said, “Rishi Sunak’s overall direction of travel towards achieving net zero has not changed. But a delay in the timescale will undoubtably shake the confidence and plans of many large and small businesses alike, not to mention consumers.
“The new timetable gives more time to decarbonise and develop the UK grid. Instead of focusing on one or two low carbon fixes, it’s an opportunity to move to a ‘technology agnostic’ approach, by installing the most energy efficient solutions.
“It’s also a chance for the government’s overdue review of electricity pricing – to make it fairer for households adopting low carbon electrical technology – to get back on track.
“Alongside this, the UK’s EV charging infrastructure must be significantly ramped up to satisfy customer demand and meet crucial safety standards”.
Existing technologies can already deliver the carbon savings needed to reach 2050 net zero targets. A much greater obstacle to achieving the targets, not mentioned in the PM’s statement, is the shortage of competent professionals to install these technologies, according to the ECA.
While ECA welcomes the Prime Minister’s boost for research and development, it will do little to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions in the short term. Investment in training and skills cannot wait if the UK wants to stay ahead of the net zero curve. Industry needs certainty to invest in the training needed for a safe transition to a low carbon economy.
Andrew Eldred, ECA’s Director of Workforce and Public Affairs, commented, “The extra time available must be used to good effect, low carbon technologies are evolving fast, but they all require a level of core competence to be installed safely.
“To train just to install EV charge points will not equip you to be an installer of future technology or to retrofit a building. Neither will it equip you to understand how that piece of tech integrates with other low carbon technologies.
“It might in fact lead to greater carbon emissions, through a malfunctioning building. But most worryingly, without the right level of competence, it could prove dangerous to consumers and lead to grid capacity issues. The safe and reliable electricity we all enjoy today in the UK relies on a century of work to maintain high standards”.