UK energy revolution risks creating a ‘two-tier’ economy
The UK's transition to a low-carbon economy is masking stark regional divides, according to new research, with regions such as the North of England and East Midlands being left behind.
Researchers from Imperial College London and consultancy firm E4tech are warning of a two-tier emerging as Britain undergoes an energy revolution. While many businesses and homes across London, Scotland and the East are set to benefit from clean growth and lower energy bills, research has found that regions such as Wales, Yorkshire and the East Midlands are falling behind.
Some of these regions are suffering from low energy efficiency ratings, while cost of heating, combined with lower average incomes in these areas mean that fuel poverty rates are particularly high.
Imperial’s Dr Iain Staffnell said: “The country is going through an energy revolution. We are creating an energy system which will power our future economy and help tackle climate change.
“But, our research reveals that Britain is at risk of creating a two-tier economy, leaving millions of families and businesses less well equipped to enjoy cheaper bills and better health outcomes. Our concern is they will not be offered the same opportunities as people living in regions which are modernising their energy infrastructure.”
Leaders and laggards
The report, commissioned by Drax Group, breaks down the energy revolution into 20 metrics for the power, transport and building sectors. It highlights that different levels of Government investment, local policies and average household income have led to stark regional differences.
Electric vehicle (EV) ownership is cheaper in London than anywhere else in the country, thanks to shorter travelling distances and the exemption of EVs from the capital’s Congestion Charge. With public transport, walking and cycling more dominant in London, a Londoner’s carbon footprint from transport is up to 2.5 times less than residents in other regions.
The report also highlights solid progress in Scotland, which is successfully shifting away from fossil fuels to renewable sources. The number of EV charging points in Scotland is also high compared to the number of vehicles: despite the low population density, the average Scottish household is around 2km from a charging point.
Energy efficiency in buildings is neglected across Britain, according to the study, and is worst in the Midlands, northern England and Wales.
Those in Wales and the North East spend the most on energy, so any changes to energy costs will make the greatest difference to the welfare and profits of homes and businesses in these areas, researchers insist.
“Great Britain needs more secure, clean energy to compete in the future economy, Drax’s chief executive Will Gardiner said. “There is an energy revolution underway which will deliver it – but this report uncovers worrying regional divides as we go through that transition.”