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Building back a renewable future 

During lockdown, we have all seen the benefits of reduced emissions, from birdsong to relief from the symptoms of asthma. But with lockdown ending, how do we ‘lock in’ these benefits?

Clean energy projects

Lockdown has led to lower energy consumption in the UK, which, coupled with the sunniest spring on record, saw enough solar power to reduce carbon power to the lowest level ever recorded. No coal was burned in April or May.

However, this cannot last, but the Government can implement measures that will. A robust policy to encourage investment in more clean energy – solar, wind and hydro projects – will help us keep coal and gas in the ground.

Travel infrastructure

How much have you used your car during lockdown? And has this changed your driving habits? For many, the answers will be “a little”, and “a lot”, and the impact on traffic levels has been clear.

We can help to continue this trend, and reduce future traffic jams, fumes and accidents by:

  • investing in park and rides to lower city centre emissions
  • increasing the number of bus routes and re-opening smaller train stations
  • providing a scrappage scheme for petrol and diesel vehicles to drive sales of electric vehicles
  • passing legislation for all new public transport vehicles to be electric.

An electric car revolution needs to be underpinned by electric vehicle infrastructure. The UK’s first fast-charging electric forecourt already exists near Braintree in Essex, but we need more.

Buildings

It is well known that the UK’s property stock is old and not energy efficient.

In order to bring our homes and offices into the 21st century, retrospective action is required. The Government could offer:

  • incentives to property owners to upgrade inefficient or fossil fuel boilers to efficient and clean boilers
  • similarly to the ‘cycle to work’ scheme, employees could draw an interest-free loan via their employer to invest in home energy improvements and repay via gross salary contributions
  • stamp duty land tax could be lower when you purchase a highly efficient property
  • a green Help to Buy scheme to encourage first time buyers to opt for energy efficient properties
  • decarbonisation funds to stimulate the retrofit sector for both residential and commercial property. If lockdown continues, it is a prime opportunity for retrofitting works.

With 8% of global carbon emissions coming from concrete production, the re-purposing of existing building stock instead of building from scratch can save energy. This also prevents further land being designated for development, protecting the green belt. Government policies and incentives, such as lower business rates for repurposed, energy efficient buildings, are also likely to make a difference.

Use energy right

We can no longer afford to be careless about how we use energy in properties. Research shows that many commercial buildings are both heated and air conditioned at the same time, a clear waste of money and energy.

Similarly, when fitting out properties, recycled materials and equipment should be given priority, saving energy to produce new goods.

Green strings attached

When the Government bails out businesses such as airlines, the finance packages offered must have green strings attached to ensure the bailout case is well managed and in line with climate goals. And when businesses fail to comply, penalties or additional taxes will serve as a further deterrent.

This list is by no means exhaustive. We need to ask a lot of our Government – but where it must lead with policy, we as individuals and businesses must lead by example.

Want to keep hearing that birdsong? Be bold, be courageous, and build back green.


Read more from this edition of Ahead of the Curve

Table of contents

Feature one:

Practical Futurist Andrew Gril looks at the new normal and how technology can be used to effect lasting change as we return to work.


Feature two:

The challenge for restaurants has rarely been greater; with the rise of app based delivery services and now coronavirus, how can the leisure and hospitality sector adapt to survive?


Feature three:

How is the new normal going to impact on how and where we work. Our real estate team looks at how the new role of the new office is having to change at a rapid pace.


Feature four:

Our regular feature looks at the workforce of the future. How has the coronavirus lockdown impacted on how we all work? And what will this look like going forward?


Feature five:

Graphcore are a company to keep an eye on. We spoke to Nigel Toon, CEO of Graphcore – a Bristol  business which brings Brunel spirit to a modern problem.


Feature six:

The housing market has been severely hit by the lockdown with sever restrictions on house viewings. But now things have started to free up, how can the industry future-proof itself?


Feature seven:

The health and social care sector has been at the epicentre of the coronavurus pandemic. Will this solution keep residents safe, whilst managing their need for social interaction?


Feature eight:

Video conferencing has been one of the heroes of lockdown. From social quizzes to board meetings – but people who have experienced a brain injury may find VC challenging…


Feature nine:

The book review – The new long life. Our regular book review feature, this time we look at The New Long Life, a book that looks at the challenges and opportunities of longevity.


Feature eleven:

In our regular feature Leading Edge, a selected charity is offered exclusive access to the back page of our magazine, this month it is CESA, the cauda equina syndrome charity.

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