Energy efficiency: from marginalized to mainstream
24 March 2005, News release from Faversham House Group
We do not need to articulate the dangers of climate change; Mother Nature is showing us these quite clearly as recent floods, mudslides and bushfires claim dozens of lives and cause millions of pounds of damage across the globe. Nor do we have to list the environmental arguments for reducing energy use and our dependence on fossil fuels, as these are both well documented and widely accepted. Apart from a small number of sceptics, there is virtual worldwide scientific consensus on the repercussions of climate change and its link to the use of traditional energy sources. However, considering that we waste around £5bn worth of energy every year, could the solution to climate change be as simple as improved energy efficiency?
Following revelations that the UK will fail to meet its self-imposed CO2 targets, coupled with the much publicised pledge Mr Blair made to tackle climate change during presidencies of both the G8 and the EU this year, never has the pressure upon the Government to deliver results in the environmental arena been so great. The UK is in a strong position to deliver in two key areas.
Firstly, the UK has the necessary legislation in place. The Energy White Paper, for example, sets out a bold strategy for energy policy until 2050 with four targets which must be achieved together, demonstrating that the liberalisation and security of the UK energy supply are inextricably linked to environmental and social goals. Other regulations put climate change at the heart of decisions that concern the sourcing, storage and use of energy, while bodies such as DEFRA review the most effective energy efficient measures and the Treasury allocates funds to accelerate energy efficient technology.
Secondly, the platform of environmental science upon which the UK relies is first class, and as Mr Blair points out: "Just as science and technology have given us the evidence to measure the dangers of climate change, so it can help us find safety from it. The potential for innovation, for scientific discovery and hence for business investment and growth, is enormous." This, of course, is not a new concept for industry as the growing relevance and popularity of shows such as the National Energy Management Exhibition and Conference (24-26 May 2005, www.nemex-energy.co.uk) illustrates UK plc's commitment to issues of energy management.
While the UK has been self-sufficient in gas for the past three decades, this is set to change as we become net importers of both gas and oil. Germany has recently been criticised for its growing dependence on Russian energy supplies as governments worry that Russia's rising prominence as an energy supplier to Europe may turn into an economic and political hazard for the whole continent. However, Stephen Timms MP warns that the UK will need increasing supplies of Russian energy in the future. The emphasis is upon industry and commerce to negotiate a web of financial incentives and tax deterrents to lead the way towards an energy efficient future and the UK Government's goal that half of all emissions reductions in the existing climate change programme will come from energy efficiency.
With 28% of CO2 emissions stemming from home energy use and 26% from road transport, there needs to be a country-wide shift towards a low carbon mentality if the UK is to meet a 60% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2050. UK plc is responding to this responsibility through demand side management programmes which encourage energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources. Improved technologies, products and processes have led to innovation and discovery in the energy conservation sector, and given many of those who have been exhibiting at, or visiting, exhibitions such as NEMEX a significant head start. Furthermore, as investors line up to inject funds into those businesses that employ 'green' considerations in product design and business strategies and the Government continues to introduce environmental legislation, taking climate changes impacts into account now plays an increasingly key role in business strategy.
Given that the UK currently lags behind its European neighbours producing just 1.3% of the nation's electricity in 2000 from renewable sources compared to Denmark's 16.7%, for example, the renewable sector undoubtedly offers business significant additional opportunities. Take solar energy - now so advanced that if everyone of the 155,000 new homes planned for the UK between now and 2010 was fitted with photovoltaic systems it would equate with £92m worth of free electricity and contribute 4% to the 10% target of generating electricity from renewable sources.
A DEFRA background note states that energy efficiency is a measure of how economically business is meeting the demands for energy services and campaigns for investment to this effect. However, the fact of the matter is that energy efficient technology has been available in industry for some time, as NEMEX 2005 amply demonstrates. UK plc has witnessed 'green' thinking evolve from marginalized to mainstream. Such considerations are no longer confined to impassioned pleas from environmentalists but are an integral part of successful modern day business. Speakers and exhibitors alike at NEMEX will tell you that the cheapest, cleanest and safest way of addressing our commercial energy policy objectives is to become more energy efficient. As Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt points out; "The UK has world class research strengths in the science underpinning energy efficient technology. We must capitalise on those strengths and continue the transition to a low carbon economy."
For further information please email Faversham House Group