Our choices about what Infrastructure we invest in [ eg power systems, buildings, and transport links] are an important part of getting to Net Zero, because infrastructure is expensive and lasts a long time. It also fundamentally shapes our future options and can create (or block) lots of jobs. For example, if developers are allowed to build isolated, car-dependent housing developments out in the Fens, the new residents will find life unbearable without a car.
There is a big debate on about what sort of infrastructure the UK should invest in if we’re to get to Net Zero as cost effectively as possible. A recent report from the think tank, Green Alliance (Getting the Building Blocks Right) compared the consequence of our choices on both the climate impact, and the economic return on investment. As it was based on research by a team that included the Nobel prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, I suspect their analysis is largely right!
This showed that the dumbest thing for the UK to do is to bail out airlines. Not only is this dreadful for the climate, the ‘economic return on investment’ is rated at “low.”
A much better option is to invest in “Building efficiency and clean heating””. This has a positive climate impact and mid-level economic return.
However of all the options they explore, much the most beneficial is “Investing in clean energy”. This has both high economic return and a strongly positive climate impact.
“Clean Energy” is a thriving area, including solar, wind (offshore and onshore) batteries and other storage technologies, all held together by smart grids that make sure the right power goes to the right place at the right time.
It’s good to see that Cambridgeshire County Council has made a start and has invested £19 Million, with another £55M in the pipeline. This includes an innovative solar generation project at Babraham Park and Ride site. This will generate and store all the power it needs for its own operation and will provide zero carbon charging for electric vehicles parked at the site. It will also sell power to a local business, in the process earning quite significant revenues to support council services. Access to finance is not a barrier because projects like this are often based on collaborations with specialist commercial partners and external investment funds.
We want to see Cambridge City Council doing some equally exciting developments. Having a few solar panels on the Guildhall is fine, but if we’re to get to Net Zero and rebuild a healthy green recovery in Cambridge we need to see a lot more ambition from our City Council.
And we need it now.