UK cities pledge to switch to 100% green energy by 2050

Last week a number of UK city and borough councils announced they plan to run entirely on green energy by 2050 in order to reduce localised carbon emissions. In total more than fifty Labour led councils including Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Nottingham, and Glasgow signed up to the pledge, orchestrated by the Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary Lisa Nandy, which will mean new procedures and policies including green transport, a large scale home insulation programme, and an end to domestic heating by gas. Labour claim this will reduce the country’s carbon emissions by 10%.

A number of the Labour councils that have signed up to pledge are in London including Southwark, Lambeth, and Greenwich. This is expected to put the candidates for next year’s London mayoral election under increasing pressure to include London as a whole in the pledge.

With international climate talks due to start in Paris in December a number of cities around the world including New York, Sydney, Munich, and Copenhagen have made similar pledges.

Potential US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton backed the full clean energy bill stating “We should do nothing that interferes with or undermines efforts to reach that goal as soon as it is possible.”

When speaking of the pledge Lisa Nandy said it showed the impact positive green policies could have locally at a time when the government was cutting subsidies to the wind and solar industries.

“Where Labour is in power we will push for a clean energy boom even if the government will not,” she said. “Ministers say they support devolution to our towns and cities so they should back these council leaders by ending their attack on the schemes that can help to make this safer, cleaner future a reality.”

The leader of Manchester city council Sir Richard Leese said the transition would happen “through acts of leadership by the many, not the few.

“We are taking action to show a completely clean energy future is both viable and within reach within the course of a generation.”

The pledge states: “We have the ambition of making all our towns and cities across the UK 100% clean before 2050, in line with the commitments made nationally and internationally at the Paris summit.

“We hope other towns and cities across the globe will join us to demonstrate that this transition will happen through acts of leadership by the many, not the few, and that a transition to a clean energy future is both viable and already beginning to happen in many towns and cities today. Our UK towns and cities are committed to making a better future for all.”

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband went one step further this week, calling for the UK to become the first country to target zero carbon emissions. Miliband, who was energy secretary under Gordon Brown, said Britain should send a clear signal by increasing its existing target of cutting emissions by 80% by 2050 under the Climate Change Act to 100%.

The proposal of cities and regions run entirely on green energy and having a number of other green policies and projects in place should be embraced wholeheartedly. With the Paris climate talks due in December more must be done to reduce our carbon emission and both central and local governments are responsible for moving us the right direction. The 10% reduction may at first glance not seem like much but in a carbon heavy country like the UK this will help make a massive difference to our carbon output.

The challenges we face will be tough and will not happen quickly. We all must pull in the same direction for it to be successful but with this initiative and more like it we can succeed. However in order for this initiative to succeed there must be a sufficient supply of green energy. One option for a least a portion of this could be offshore wind.

A new report published last week by Offshore Wind Vision has claimed that energy generated by offshore wind could account for 35% of the UK’s electricity demand by 2030 and support a skilled workforce of up to 50,000.

The report, which was published as part of Offshore Wind Week offered the following main points;

  • Offshore wind is getting cheaper with the level of subsidy dropping by 38% and is on track to be competitive with other new generation sources by the mid-2020s;
  • Offshore wind has become the most productive of all the renewable technologies, and this improvement is set to continue, with the newest wind farms are already operating at load factors of up to 50%;
  • The sector is attracting global investment, with over £9.5bn coming from investors since 2010 encouraged by stable and predictable regulatory regimes for renewable energy; and
  • Offshore wind already provides employment for 13,000 people and with continued deployment that figure could grow to 50,000 by 2030 across development, supply chain, construction and operational roles.

Speaking of the report’s findings Benj Sykes, Offshore Wind Industry Council co-chair said: “It is only 15 years since the first UK offshore wind farm – just two 2MW turbines – began operating. Since then the technology has matured rapidly to the point where the UK leads the world in deployment and could readily build 30 gigawatts of capacity by 2030 – enough to meet 35% of UK demand.”

The capacity the UK has for offshore wind energy generation is staggering but due to a number of factors currently remains expensive. However, as stated in the report, like all renewable energy technologies the cost is decreasing. It is feared though that the uncertainty created by the recent government cuts to subsidies may take the investment necessary to continue the growth of the industry elsewhere.

The 100% green energy pledge should force us to explore all of the options and offshore wind is one which can provide a sizeable percentage of the energy required. If the government is serious about reducing our carbon emissions it is an option they cannot overlook.

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