Author Archive Clare Scurr

A new era of change … hopefully for the better

Business energy support. London held the world’s attention in September 2022 for unfortunate reasons. Treasury growth announcements are continuing to have ripple effects on global markets. However, there was also a national energy relief plan for business … plus advice for struggling Lancashire companies.

History will mark the last month as being extremely difficult for many reasons. The death of a highly respected monarch in the middle of an unprecedented energy crisis and financial conditions not seen for nearly four decades has been exceptionally challenging.

And creates two priorities. One is to find or create strong sales opportunities in the UK and overseas. The other is to offer help to local companies being pushed to the edge by soaring costs.

Both are important to the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce and its Low Carbon Programme (CLC). The support that we can provide is explained below. However, the key message from Chamber CEO Miranda Barker OBE is – take control of your firm’s energy now – cut your energy use AND look at how you can start to generate clean energy yourself if you can!

Key September and autumn developments, plus potentially positive carbon news, are also summarised later.

In memoriam … and looking to the future

We are saddened by the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, but also note that environmental issues raised by King Charles III as Prince of Wales will be important throughout his reign. Many are also central to the CLC’s renewable energy and energy-efficiency goals.

Both the King and the current Prince of Wales (formerly Prince William) have accepted the new Government’s advice not to attend November’s international COP27 climate change summit in Egypt where the monarch as Prince Charles would have given a keynote speech.

Whether the government’s advice reflects a scaled-down commitment to environmental issues as reported widely, with a U-turn on fracking and further oil and gas exploration, is as yet unclear.

International rebuke

However, in an unusual diplomatic intervention, the Egyptian government – the COP27 host – has warned the UK against ‘backtracking from the global climate agenda’ because of fears about new UK Prime Minister Liz Truss’ commitment to net zero; it is not known if she will go to Egypt.

However, the new Prince of Wales, who made the environment a cornerstone of his royal work with the Earthshot Prize, is expected to continue to the open advocacy now barred to his father.

The Earthshot Prize, launched in 2020 by Prince William and Sir David Attenborough, will be awarded to five winners annually from 2021 to 2030 for environmentalism, and comes with a £1 million grant to continue their environmental work. The five categories inspired by UN Sustainable Development Goals are: – ‘the restoration and protection of nature’; ‘air cleanliness’; ‘ocean revival’; ‘waste-free living’; and ‘climate action’.

COP27 and CLC’s continuing role past 2023

The Chamber and CLC team will be represented at COP27, as explained in more detail in a moment.

However, this is a good time to mention that as CLC approaches the end of its first five-year mission in June 2023 to provide free advice, if you are a local business that wants to be more sustainable, please contact us now – Tel. 01254 356486.

But support will continue!

Message to businesses … cut your energy use NOW!

Energy regulator Ofgem has warned of a ‘significant risk’ of gas shortages this winter due to events in Ukraine. Some large industrial consumers could be asked to stop using gas temporarily to keep supplies ‘stable for households for as long as possible”’.

The National Grid will release its winter outlook report shortly. The good news is that winter should be milder than usual with average temperature between 5.20C and 5.70C.

Lancashire help

However, many local companies feel they are already being pushed into bankruptcy and are asking the Chamber and CLC team for advice and support, explains Miranda.

“We are really worried whether many businesses can survive until spring. Our advice is don’t waste energy unnecessarily” she says. “Cut your energy use as your first priority. And DO IT NOW!”

“If you need help, contact us directly on tel. 01254 356486.”

The next priority, Miranda says, is learning how to invest in innovative technology that can increase energy-efficiency at relatively low costs – and understanding the payback periods involved. Again, the Chamber and CLC team can provide first-line professional help.

“We can also put you in touch with the best people to sort out your specific energy problems,” she adds. Her concerns echo those of Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), Shevaun Haviland mentioned later.

Meet ENWL in person

You are also invited to an event CLC is holding with Electricity North West from 09:00 to 12:00 on Thursday 27 October for Lancashire businesses to learn more about reducing emissions and saving money in key areas such as switching to EVs, energy-efficiency and renewable energy.

‘Electric vehicles, renewables and energy-efficiency for business’ will take place at AMRC North West, AMRC Building, Roy Chadwick Way, Samlesbury Aerospace Enterprise Zone, Mellor Brook, Blackburn BB2 7HP

To join us, please click HERE.

Key UK announcements

September saw the Business Secretary announce energy relief for business, and ‘BEIS in the Growth Plan’.

Key global climate change event

Meanwhile, on a wider world stage, COP27 will take place at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, from 7th to 18th November.

The goal is to reach agreement on issues not resolved at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021. Help to limit temperature rises to 1.5oC, finance, adaptation measures, and an African focus, will be on the agenda at the end of a year that has seen severe warming wind and flooding impacts around the world.

Possible silver linings

If there is a hidden bonus to the present energy crisis, it perhaps lies in innovation.

– Space-based solar power could help Europe reach net-zero – A new cost-benefit study led by the UK-based Frazer-Nash Consultancy with London Economics and the European Space Agency, shows that space-based solar power could bring Europe more than €180 billion, help reach net-zero, and reduce reliance on imported fossil-fuels.

The concept is to collect solar power in space using large satellites in geostationary Earth orbits, generate electricity in space, turn it into microwaves, beam these to a fixed point on the Earth’s surface, convert it back into DC power, and provide continuous base-load energy by the mid-2030s

A total of 54 solar satellites, each generating 1.4GW, would be needed, says the study.

– Switching to renewables could save trillions – Meanwhile, an Oxford University study concludes that renewable energy could save the world as much as $12 trillion (£10.2 trillion) by 2050, adding that it is wrong and pessimistic to say that transitioning quickly to cleaner energy sources is expensive.

Researchers say going green makes economic sense because of the falling cost of renewables, and going faster will save more money.

Fossil-fuel data over more than a century shows that, after inflation and market volatility, their price has not changed much. In contrast, the cost of renewables over the last few decades has fallen by circa 10% annually. Based on “probabilistic” modelling, the report expects this trend to continue.

– Energy-saving measures could boost UK economy – According to Cambridge Econometric, insulating homes and installing heat pumps could add £7 billion annually to the economy and create 140,000 jobs by 2030. But the uptake depends heavily on government policy, it says in a study commissioned by Greenpeace.

Through the boiler upgrade scheme, households can put up to £5,000 of government money towards a heat pump – roughly half the cost. But to qualify they must meet a high standard of home insulation for which average homeowners currently receive no government support.

Modelling used in the report suggests the Government will need to spend £4.2 billion in 2030 on supporting heat pumps and insulation. Households will spend £9.3 billion but save £11 billion in lower heating costs. A Government subsidy of circa £27.7 billion will be needed from 2022 to 2030.

– Defusing ‘carbon bombs’ could help tackle climate change – Carbon bomb are fossil fuel extraction projects, like coal mines, that can release more than one gigatonne of CO₂ emissions during their lifetimes – more than double annual UK emissions.

Researchers have counted 425 worldwide that could collectively release more than 1,000 gigatonnes of CO₂ – far exceeding the world’s carbon budget needed to keep temperature rises below 1.5°C.

The International Energy Agency says no new ‘bomb’ project can go ahead if catastrophic climate change is to be avoided. The taboo subject of leaving fossil fuel reserves in the ground was finally broken at COP26. But credible plans from governments to limit extraction are still needed.

– Heat pumps should be key to the UK’s energy strategy – New measures to keep UK homes warm and cut greenhouse gas emissions include an energy price cap and increase gas production but miss a vital opportunity to reduce household bills permanently.

Instead, according to the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP), rather than focussing on the supply side – increasing North Sea production or fracking – a demand strategy should come first.

– Patagonia leadership – Yvon Chouinard, the billionaire founder of outdoor fashion brand Patagonia, has given his company to a charitable trust, adding that profits not reinvested in the business will go to fighting climate change.

The label has a cult following because of sustainability initiatives such as guaranteeing clothing for life and offering reasonably priced repairs; its adverting slogan ‘Don’t by this jacket’ asked shoppers to consider costs to the environment. The website now says, “Earth is now our only shareholder.”

Patagonia was founded in 1973 and 2022 sales are estimated at circa $1.5 billion. Mr Chouinard, who says he “never wanted to be a businessman”, has a reported net worth of $1.2 billion.

BCC chief also calls for emergency business grants

Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), Shevaun Haviland, wants the Government to give the energy regulator Ofgem more powers, cut energy bill VAT, and introduce emergency business grants.

She told the BBC recently that BCC was “really delighted to hear the Government talking about helping businesses”, but added that “What we want to see is things that can be put in place quickly.”

“We’d like to see Ofgem given more powers to drive more competition in the market. We’re seeing nearly 50% of our members being moved off fixed rate contracts onto variable rate contracts,” she said.

She also quoted an example of a manufacturer whose bill has risen from £140,000 to £706,000 annually. “He has to sign a contract and doesn’t know how he’s going to pay it. That’s eye-watering increases and of course you cannot plan ahead,” she explained.

BCC wants to see a rapid VAT reduction on energy bills for businesses. “They currently pay 20%, we want that brought down to 5%,” she added.

High energy bills are making cash flow really difficult for businesses. “That means they can’t use cash to buy raw materials to make products even though they have a really strong order book. So they [businesses] need emergency grants quite quickly to help them keep the doors open.”

“We need them to get help through this winter,” the director general warns. Adding that there has to be a longer-term energy plan too.

Miranda Barker adds, “An even greater concern is ensuring that the Government energy support scheme actually does what it is meant to and save jobs.

“Our fear is that unless caps are put on standing charges too, energy firms will simply raise them to claw back profits they would otherwise have made from higher energy prices.

“Some local companies have already seen horrific increases,” she adds. “But it is something the Government can stop easily if it has a mind to. We have to make them listen!”

Don’t let the soaring temperatures mean soaring energy usage for your business

This summer we’ve faced scorching temperatures across the UK and Europe.

The recent heatwave has had a real impact on businesses who have seen energy usage increase with the need for additional air conditioning and cooling equipment to keep staff, customers, and products fresh.

After all, who’s going to want to come into a stifling shop or a boiling office?  And that’s before you start to consider the challenges of keeping your chilled products chilled and your frozen products frozen.

So, no matter what the weather’s like, now is the time to start thinking about how you can control your energy usage. Making small steps, like installing a smart meter, could help your business avoid spending more on energy than it needs to.

Firms with 10 employees or less could be eligible for a smart meter.

To find out more please click here

You can also contact your energy supplier or broker.

Plastics … the other environmental emergency

In parallel with good environmental news – at last – from the US, dire global warming warnings from China, plus mixed green signals from the UK’s leadership candidates, the world is starting to wake up to and catch up with another taxing problem. What to do about plastic waste?

It’s summer! And time to throw away cares and worries whenever possible in the current world mega-crisis. But not the ‘disposable’ plastic cups, cutlery, cartons, wrappers – and particularly plastic packaging – that are often literally part and parcel of the modern holiday.

Plastic waste has reached epidemic proportions to the extent that UN member states are working towards putting in place by 2024 an historic treaty to end plastic pollution (https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/press-release/historic-day-campaign-beat-plastic-pollution-nations-commit-develop).

The UK Government, meanwhile, has started the battle-against-plastic-waste ball rolling with a swingeing tax on companies not using at least 30% of recycled material in their plastic packaging.

The Chamber Low Carbon (CLC) programme team receives many inquiries about plastic waste in general, and particularly how the new tax works. Therefore, as a one-off summer special, we have taken a close look here at the scourge of plastics, what we can all do to help, and how the new legislation which came into force in April 2022 is applied.

Help with the high costs of living and energy

However, before that we cannot ignore the other mainstream costs and energy crises now facing Lancashire businesses.

With a new Prime Minister soon to enter No 10, East Lancashire Chamber CEO, Miranda Barker OBE, is adamant the successful candidate must be proactive from day one. “Comforting lip service will not be enough,” she says. “The new PM must stand up and do something meaningful.”

“Downing Street cannot use the high cost of materials and energy as a convenient political excuse for doing either very little or next to nothing in the hope that things will improve if we wait long enough,” she adds.

“Many local Lancashire firms simply cannot afford to wait, especially with the astronomically high costs of power. It is important that all our regional companies can survive and thrive to provide employment, pay wages, and keep the Northwest economy active and vibrant.

“That means more support in one form or another to help businesses keep pace with soaring energy costs. The message to No 10 has to be “act now”. Otherwise, it will be too late for many companies.”

Better news from across the pond

In Washington, meanwhile, there was a much back-slapping in August when by the tightest of margins the US Senate passed the milestone Inflation Reduction Act – a result very much in line with CLC goals.

This unprecedented political move reached after many months of wrangling includes £305 billion for affirmative climate action and could lead to a 40% fall in US carbon emissions by 2030.

This wasn’t the legislation Democrats originally wanted, and was only passed on a vote of 50 against and 51 for – including the casting vote of Vice President Kamela Harris. But in the words of Democrat Leader of the Senate, Chuck Schumer of New York, “We have changed the world”.

Faced with considerable resistance from the Senate’s Republican side, the act described as ‘carrots with no sticks’ will incentivise renewables rather than penalise fossil-fuel users.

Chinese puzzle

China, meanwhile, having broken off climate change cooperation with the US after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit, cited the vice-director of its National Climate Centre who explained recently that temperatures over his country’s land surface have risen “much more quickly that the global average over the past 70 years”.

He said they will remain “significantly higher in the future as the challenge of climate change mounts”, and added that “… changing weather patterns in China will affect the balance of water resources, make ecosystems more vulnerable and reduce crop yields”.

London calling

Meanwhile, amid arguments about which green commitments Conservative Party leadership candidates would support as Prime Minister, new Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) figures show that 39.6% of UK electricity came from renewables in 2021 – the second highest year on record.

In 2020, more favourable weather conditions for solar and wind power led to a total of 43.2%.

For those hoping to see a major increase in UK renewable energy generating capacity, the figures show a ‘modest’ 3.7% increase installed in the last 12 months equivalent to 1.8GW.

Plastic world

Climate change aside for moment, the big fossil-fuel-based synthetic elephant in the room at the moment – and putting on weight swiftly – is plastics.

Plastic pollution is now so widespread that waste particles and micro-particles are found in all the Earth’s natural environments, including Polar Regions.

On 2nd March 2022, some 200 nations agreed to begin negotiating an international agreement to resolve the ‘plastic crisis’. An early goal is developing an over-arching framework to reduce plastic waste around the world that destroys habitats, harms wildlife, and contaminates food chains.

Parallels have been drawn with the 1989 Montreal Protocol which swiftly phased out ozone-depleting substances. Another suggestion is that plastic deserves a binding treaty like the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

However, it seems clear is that tackling the problem at the edges is not going to work. In the words of Global Plastic Partnership director, Kristin Hughes, “System-wide change is needed”.

Sad survey results

One approach to the problem has been blocked off.

In May 2022, the largest-ever UK household plastic waste survey – The Big Plastic Count (https://thebigplasticcount.com/) – found that average households throw away 66 pieces of plastic a week.

Based on these figures Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic (https://www.everydayplastic.org/) estimate that the UK throws away circa 100 billion pieces annually! The largest culprit in the survey was 83% from food and drink packaging waste, particularly fruit and vegetable packaging.

The work concluded that recycling campaigns alone are not enough to prevent plastic ending up in waste where it can degenerate and breakdown into minute particles that travel across the globe.

Government figures show that in 2021 more than 2.5 million tonnes of plastic packaging waste were created. Some 44.2% were recycled – 55% in the UK. The rest was exported mainly to Turkey.

The other problem is that not all plastics are equally easy to sort and recycle; data suggests that 61% of plastic bottles are recycled, a figure that drops to 36% for plastic tubs, and just 8% for plastic film.

The Chamber Programme – sustainable goals

Why are plastics important to the Chamber Low Carbon Programme? One core CLC aim is to support the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (https://sdgs.un.org/goals) designed as a “blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”.

The goals that particularly apply to plastics are: – SDG 3: Good health and well-being; SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation; SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities; SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production; SDG 13: Climate action; SDG 14: Protection of seas and oceans; and SDG 15: Repair ecosystems and retain biodiversity.

Must do much better

So the Government has stepped up the action with a plastic tax. This is now in force. But there is still considerable confusion about what it is, what it is designed to do, who is affects, and how it works.

The goal is to provide a clear incentive for businesses to use recycled plastic for packaging. By increasing demand for recycled material, the idea is to stimulate higher levels of supply from recycling, rather than waste going to landfill, incineration, or escaping into the environment.

In terms of emissions to atmosphere, the bonus should be a 40% carbon emissions saving equal to nearly 200,000 tonnes in 2022 and 2023.

Who is affected?

Plastic packaging manufacturers and importers, and their business consumers who buy plastic packaging or goods wrapped in the same, are affected. Businesses that perform the last manufacturing process before packaging is packed or filled are liable for the tax.

To avoid disproportionate administration, an exemption covers manufacturers and importers using less than 10 tonnes per year of material containing less than 30% of recycled plastic. The 30% figure will be calculated as total plastic recycled content by weight divided by total plastic weight.

Imported material will be liable for the tax whether filled or unfilled. If businesses pass on the charge to customers, the cost is expected to be small because packaging only makes up a small proportion of total goods price tag. The current charge rate is £200 per tonne of plastic waste.

Deliberate burdens

However, it is expected that the impact will mean that an estimated 20,000 manufacturers and importers will have to get to grips with new rules, train staff, register with HMRC, develop reporting frameworks – plus file tax returns, make payments, and keep records.

In addition some businesses and organisations will have to conduct supply chain due diligence.

The average annual net increase in continuing administration burdens for businesses is estimated to be £0.4 million. There will also be civil and criminal penalties for failing to comply with the tax.

Queries can be sent to Denise Welsby at indirecttaxdesign@hmrc.gov.uk.

Another source of guidance information is “Plastic Packaging Tax: steps to take” – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-need-to-register-for-plastic-packaging-tax

Green Conservative policies

Throughout the summer Conservative Party leadership campaign to find the next Prime Minister, candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak were reticent about their future plans for climate change.

Both have committed to net-zero, but their environmental policies were described as “plummeting down the priority agenda” as economic and energy issues became increasingly pressing.

Green fight back

A number of Conservative MPs previously aligned themselves with the Net Zero Scrutiny Group arguing against many Government environmental policies on the grounds that they jeopardise the cost of living and energy security.

However, since mid-August the Conservative Environmental Network (CEN) supported by 133 Conservative MPs – half the backbench parliamentary party – has called on the incoming Prime Minister to insulate more homes and scale up heat pump installations to help poorer households.

CEN says its plan can be rolled out in parallel with direct measures to help with winter 2022/23 domestic and business fuel bills, and still push towards the UK’s 2050 net-zero emissions goal.

Practical help

CEN has developed its proposals as “practical, industry-led solutions that the government could swiftly introduce” at a total cost of £9 billion over the next eight years. They include the expansion of an energy industry-led scheme to insulate 500,000 fuel-poor homes this winter, and one million annually by April 2023.

A long-term finance programme would be included; average semi-detached homes could save circa £500 annually.

There is also a plan to expand a scheme replacing gas boilers with heat pumps – the 2025 target is 775,999 annually. This CEN says could save households £225 a year and cut gas usage by 80%.

A final requirement would be for energy companies to advise customers on how to turn down the ‘flow temperature’ of gas boilers so they run more efficiently. Many operate at unnecessarily high temperatures, waste gas, increase bills, but don’t add any extra warmth.

UK targets good, but delivery bad so far says official advisor

In its July annual review, the Government’s official adviser has given the UK full marks for its low-carbon goals but poor grades for delivery. Without larger cuts the UK will not reach its 2050 climate goals, it warns. However, every little helps, as the Northwest is increasingly able to show.

The chilling news – not unfortunately in a good way – is that the UK is on track to miss absolutely vital 2050 net-zero emission targets needed to keep the world cool and avoid more severe heatwaves.

In its latest unusually-long 600-page annual review, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) warns of a “shocking gap” in some essential policy areas – including missed opportunities to insulate homes, cut agricultural emissions, and make more carbon-efficient use of land.

In fairness, the CCC also acknowledges that there is continuing progress in providing more renewable electricity, expanding the offshore wind power sector, and electric vehicle (EV) sales.

In fact, the good news is that UK emissions are now 47% lower than in 1990. And despite rising by 4% in 2021 during the pandemic recovery, they are still 10% lower than 2019.

Lancashire helps to deliver national targets

The CCC’s main message is that stronger policy leadership is needed at the top. But we know individual actions create important results on the ground. Every little helps … if multiplied thousands of times across the country.

This is where the Chamber Low Carbon Programme (CLC) is now making an increasing difference with regional businesses of all sizes – and also supporting Lancashire’s growing role as a national leader that is helping the UK to reach essential net-zero emission goals.

Working closely with some 300 companies to date – and still counting – CLC’s sustainability team advises firms, organisations and individuals on switching over to renewable energy, improving energy-efficiency, and taking breakthrough green technologies to market.

Read on …

In a moment, we look at CLC’s new “Destination Net Zero” carbon-reduction business support package designed to help Lancashire companies on their individual net-zero journeys, the CCC’s worries in more detail, a new ‘drive’ for 50% of all town and city journeys to be cycled or walked by 2040 … and better ways to stay cool.

CLC’s Destination Zero

Reaching net-zero is now so important for SMEs on the ‘ground’ that CLC is launching a brand new carbon-reduction business support package for local and regional companies. It provides: –

Half-day classroom support – What is Net Zero? Why do we need to take it seriously and what actions can be taken?

Off-site support – Baseline Carbon Footprint calculated by the Chamber’s Sustainability Team including Scope 3 emissions.

Outcome – Net Zero Target, pathway and carbon reduction plan, drafted by the Chamber’s Sustainability Team in line with PPN6/21 Cabinet Office Guidance.

Please contact the team directly on tel 01254 356487 for more information, or if you would like to take part.

CCC – good targets, bad delivery

As CCC Chair Lord Deben explained, “The government has willed the ends but not the means,” adding that, “… holes must be plugged in its strategy urgently. The window to deliver real progress is short.”

The CCC, as Government statutory climate change advisor, congratulated ministers on rigorous targets set out in the 2021 Net-Zero Strategy, but said there is “scant evidence of delivery against these headline goals so far”.

It adds that the strategy accounts for circa 33% of the cuts needed by the UK. Another 25% are affected by external factors. But 33% are not covered by existing policies, which Lord Deben describes as “… very, very worrying”.

CCC also accuses Defra of “magical thinking” over agriculture and thinks the Treasury is struggling to explain the costs and benefits of net-zero. It also wants an urgent review of tax strategies and planning legislation reforms which it says are necessary to accelerate and embed progress.

Five key truths

In reaching its conclusions, the CCC concentrated on five specific issues: –

– Energy-efficient homes – an easy win which is being ignored with no plans to help most homes

– Transport policy – too much focus on private cars rather than public transport

– Plans to deal with farming emissions are too slow

– Good progress towards renewables as a growing success story

– Government is not doing enough to change people’s behaviour on travel, diet and flying

However, the report does make more than 300 recommendations.

Court wants an explanation of how net-zero policies will work

The High Court has ordered the Government to show how its net-zero policies will meet UK emissions targets. Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and the Good Law Project have argued successfully that the Government has unlawfully failed to include policies needed to deliver promised cuts.

An 18 July judgment said the strategy lacks any explanation or quantification of how Government plans will reach emissions target, and does not meet obligations under the Climate Change Act 2008.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) must now prepare a report showing how emissions will be cut and present it to Parliament by April 2023.

More cycling and walking

With transport policy and travel in mind, the Government has unveiled its CWIS2 (Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy) to make cycling and walking natural choices for shorter journeys, and part of longer ones by 2040 (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-second-cycling-and-walking-investment-strategy/the-second-cycling-and-walking-investment-strategy-cwis2).

The upgraded CWIS2 aim is for 50% of all journeys in towns and cities to be walked or cycled by 2030, with 55% of primary school children aged 5 to 10 walking to school safely by 2025.

To encourage ‘active travel’, the Government is working with local and combined authorities to redesign towns, cities and neighbourhoods for more active journeys, create hundreds of miles of high-quality cycle routes, improve crossings, widen pavements, and promote quieter streets.

Benefits include better air quality to make travelling, living and working environments more pleasant, improved general health, fewer premature deaths linked to physical inactivity – and billions of pounds saved for the NHS.

Better ways to survive heatwaves

Closing curtains, shutting windows, keeping hydrated and exercising carefully are tactics to tackle heatwaves. However, a lot of thought is going into other low-energy ways of keeping cool.

– Domestic air conditioning system sales in 2020 were 20% higher than 2019. They are electrical, release hot air into urban spaces, and use potent greenhouse gas refrigerants, plus Rare Earth metals where mining and processing cause environmental and ecological damage.

Good loft insulation as an alternative keeps heat out as well as in. Other passive options include external shading – a return of window shutters – external walls and roofs painted white to deflect the sun’s energy, and deciduous trees planted to protect south-facing windows in summer.

Future new-build homes and deep retrofits along passive principles will treat north, east, south or west-facing facades differently, add overhangs, and use layouts to encourage cross-flow ventilation.

Heat pumps connected to fifth-generation heat networks that exchange energy between different buildings will also let users both import and export heat, improve efficiency and share resources. Some heat pumps can also be set up when first installed with a reverse cycle mode to circulate cool rather than warm water through radiators.

Urban living

In the longer-term future, far-reaching changes may be needed in how towns and cities are designed and function if climate change takes a deeper grip.

Heatwaves already cause Europe’s deadliest weather-related disasters, with 140,000 deaths and 83 heatwaves recorded since 2020. In 2020, circa 2,500 people died of heat-related illnesses in the UK.

The Met Office predicts that by 2100, in a worst case scenario temperatures on some days in the UK could reach 40C every three to four years. A parallel study identifies Europe as a heatwave hotspot with extremes increasing three to four times faster than other mid-latitude regions.

But cities are becoming increasingly popular too. Some 4.75 billion people now live in non-rural settings and almost 70% of the world’s population are expected to be urban dwellers by 2050.

Back to the drawing board

Historic architecture could be a drawback too. Where affordable, medieval European towns tended to install large south-facing windows to gather maximum sunlight and heat. But poorly insulated homes become heat-traps in summer and many contemporary housing blocks were erected quickly.

Old towns often stand on riverbanks; as the heat rises, so does humidity. Large areas of modern concrete and asphalt also absorb heat by day but radiate it out at night into sleeping communities.

In contrast, buildings in hotter regions traditionally have smaller windows that look out onto narrow shaded alleys and thoroughfares to minimise exposure to the sun and limit heat retention.

It is obviously impractical to rebuild established towns to suit a warming world. But new buildings can be constructed differently and existing ones retrofitted for conditions they were not originally designed for.

This will probably lead to new approaches in the design of individual buildings, the small spaces between clusters of buildings, the large spaces in whole cityscapes, and the wider relationship between hot urban and cooler rural environments.

What will a hot future be like?

Future summers are likely to be hotter, drier, and longer – boxing in shorter springs and autumns, and turning winters into a couple of dreary months punctuated by destructive storms and floods.

Blistering heat will be the default for July and August, with higher temperatures and humidity making sunbathing and work in the open unpleasant and potentially deadly.

At the same time, summer downpours fed by convective storms will be heavy. Little rain will drain into the ground. Most will flow over the surface to feed damaging flash floods.

Many people, it is predicted, will vote with their feet, leading to a general migration northwards and to higher ground. Meanwhile, cooler conditions could become a big property selling point!

UK’s largest renewables auction accelerates away from fossil fuels

The Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme is the Government’s main mechanism for supporting low-carbon electricity generation and ensures generators get a fixed, pre-agreed price known as the ‘strike price’ for selling their electricity into the energy market.

The fourth and to date largest CfD auction of 15-year private law contracts on 7 July 2022 (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/contracts-for-difference/contract-for-difference)  secured a record 11GW of clean ‘home-grown’ energy independent of international markets to power some 12 million homes and reduce exposure to volatile global prices

Circa 7GW of capacity will come from new offshore wind projects and increase the UK’s overall capacity built and under construction by 35%; around 2.2GW will come from solar, 1GW from onshore wind, and 0.6GW from inland wind. For the first time, floating offshore wind (FLOW) and tidal stream generation are included and will account for 32MW and 41MW respectively.

Of midges, mice and men …

Global warming is driving Antarctica’s only native insect – a tiny midge – to extinction. Good news on summer nights? Sadly not. But it could change the continent’s delicate food web, a new study finds.

However, mice are increasing. U.S. and Canadian researchers say warming temperatures have boosted populations of the white-footed mouse in homes, outhouses and garages.

Climate change’s real sting in the tail?

The Rising Cost of Doing Business

We’re all now familiar with the cost of living crisis – how households are struggling to keep up with bills and afford the rapidly rising cost of food, fuel and other essentials.

But there’s another crisis which is dramatically hitting businesses, and that’s the ‘cost of doing business’ crisis. Firms across the country are being confronted by rapidly rising costs of vital raw materials, fuel, wages and, of course, energy.

Battered businesses now face a stark choice – whether to pass on the increases to their customers, or to try and absorb these new expenses to keep prices down.

In order to cope with these dramatic cost increases, firms need to get a grip on their expenditure. Installing a smart meter is a positive step in taking control of business outgoings. Once installed, energy readings will be sent directly to the supplier, bringing an end to estimated bills.

Firms with 10 employees or less could be eligible for a smart meter.  To find out more please click here

You can also contact your energy supplier or broker.

A time for doubling-down … not giving up!

Cutting bills before they become more expensive. Whatever the future holds, it is vital to reduce overheads as swiftly as possible. And that often means setting time aside to become energy-efficient and change bad and expensive energy-related behaviour and habits.

During a crisis it isn’t always easy to know what to do. But it is important to do something! Which is where the Chamber Low Carbon Programme (CLC) expert team can help.

The programme created four years ago helps Lancashire companies to minimise their fossil-fuel use. Today it shows firms how moving to renewable energy and improving energy-related behaviour can lower soaring bills and help meet net-zero goals.

Survival route map

The first priority for almost all businesses must be ‘to reduce the size of bills now’, as East Lancashire Chamber CEO, Miranda Barker OBE explains in a moment. Many now have plans that are so unprovable they are cannot even generate quotes.

A second is to develop technologies and technical products world markets need urgently. Ged Heffernan runs innovative Lancashire green technology businesses. He looks this month at how RedCAT (https://www.red-cat.uk/) – of which he is a co-founder – closes the gap that market forces alone can’t in commercialising the new technologies really needed by businesses and communities.

The key role of energy-efficiency

However, a third goal is to increase energy-efficiency rapidly, particularly in buildings accounting for a major part of the UK’s carbon footprint.

Because energy-efficiency is both a major problem and potential ‘low-hanging fruit’ solution, we focus on it in detail later. Before that, two bits of news help to put the subject into context.

– Behavioural change

The Energy Transitions Commission says the Government is missing ‘no-brainer’ energy price and emissions solutions by focusing on energy generation and not higher energy-efficiency in its April Energy Security Strategy (https://www.energy-transitions.org/new-insights-briefing-to-build-energy-security-through-accelerated-energy-transition/).

Specifically, it questions whether the October 2021 Heat and Buildings Strategy is already out of date

– Supercharging energy-efficiency

In parallel, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says fast-tracking energy-efficiency improvements by 2030 could deliver 33% of the reductions needed to reach net-zero by 2050 (https://www.iea.org/reports/the-value-of-urgent-action-on-energy-efficiency).

It adds that the measures it recommends are ‘already cost-effective and pay for themselves’.

Also as shown later, many SMEs with rising operating costs can cut energy bills by 18% to 25% through Energy Saving Trust energy-efficiency and behavioural change tips.

Business action this day

The dilemma of many companies caught in slowly rising crises is knowing where and when to start, or even that this is a crisis they need to address. “It’s the boiling frog syndrome,” explains Miranda.

The idea is that a frog put into boiling water will jump out immediately. But a frog placed in tepid water slowly brought to a boil will not perceive danger and be cooked to death. This metaphor highlights to risk of ignoring sinister threats rising gradually rather than suddenly.

“When times are tough there is a tendency to hope things will improve by themselves,” says Miranda. “Our advice is that this is definitely not the best option. Reduce bills swiftly, with no more excuses about Brexit, Covid-19 or Ukraine. Businesses must act now to help themselves.”

The Programme

Stephen Sykes, programme manager and Chamber Director of Sustainability, has similar advice.

“Since 2018, we have helped circa 300 companies. Our experts now offer specialisations that include solar PV, voltage optimisation of National Grid power supplies, LED lighting, the Internet of Things (IoT), data in the circular economy, and electric vehicles (EVs).

“It is tempting when conditions are bad to focus on activities you control directly. But delays mean cutting carbon will cost ten-times more in three years’ time. Giving up a good thing is not a good idea!

“Now is the time to double-down and improve energy-efficiency throughout working businesses rather than waiting for better times.”

Two bonuses

The benefits are twofold. “Time and effort invested now will pay future dividends during the economic recovery,” says Stephen.

“The other advantage is that the Government still has an urgent public procurement agenda. Companies can generate green credentials now they will need to qualify as suppliers.”

However, this is just the starting point; the aim is to think creatively, progressively hunting down other opportunities to save energy directly and indirectly.

RedCAT boost

As a self-confessed former petrol-head with a passion for ‘interesting’ vehicles who once worked in the Formula One and gas turbine industries, Ged Heffernan now finds the sound of stationery vehicles with running engines ‘incredulous’ because of the avoidable waste and environmental impact.

This is now particularly important as ‘dinosaur juice’ users worry increasingly about escalating fuel prices. With modern engines, alternators and batteries, there are fewer valid reasons for “… burning stuff when it’s not being used to propel vehicles or run essential systems,” he says.

Closing the commercialisation gap

Having worked at a Whitehall-level on plans to maximise the use of UK marine green energy with goals of the Government of the day (‘Marine Energy Action Plan 2010’ – http://www.policyandinnovationedinburgh.org/meap.html), he knows that even well-meaning markets and governments struggle to optimise green tech’s potential.

He also recognises that what may be perceived as inappropriate, uncertain or changeable incentives can potentially encourage conflicting decisions and behaviours. Political, economic and commercial goals alone can by-pass much-needed investments in vital green technologies.

Hence, the formation of RedCAT!

Lancashire innovation for the world

As shown in 2010, Ged believes conventional markets often fail to close a young company’s commercialisation funding gap. This may also be because industry frameworks are unclear or immature. Early-stage green tech funding is also not necessarily the preferred cost choice for many investors.

RedCAT was founded at the height of the pandemic to redress this and support key regional goals: – Restart, Recovery; Sustainable and Resilient Growth. However, it also wants to make a sustainable difference not only to the Northwest but the wider UK and beyond – as we will examine next month.

Ged will also show why RedCAT supports the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (https://sdgs.un.org/goals), and how helping the Global South is in the direct interest of the Global North.

RedCAT, with other regional stakeholders, also wants to highlight regional capability ‘gaps’ to provide a framework for guiding/informing both government funding and private investment.

RedCAT’s five main drivers encapsulate all this: –

  • Low carbon: real reduction, innovation, adoption and application
  • ‘Made in Lancashire’: support for developing regional manufacturing capabilities
  • STEM skills: joined-up skills development and life-long learning
  • Resilience: anticipating risks, augmented by adaptability and flexibility to withstand shocks
  • Global South: support for developing technologies that have a positive local impact

“It isn’t just about funding, in fact RedCAT may provide no finance at all. Our clients are looking for that essential ‘Investment Plus’, where ‘Plus’ taps into our team and support network to enhance their full potential,” Ged adds.

The ‘dirty secret’ of buildings

The Economist magazine recently said buildings have a ‘dirty secret’ and are ‘among the planet’s worst climate offenders’ because of their energy-inefficiency.

Heating, cooling and powering building generates some 27% of global energy-related carbon emissions; demolition adds another 10%. Construction uses huge amounts of steel and cement; Demolition debris is 33% of the EU’s waste by weight.

The three-part solution it says is to, firstly, incentivise owners to make existing properties more energy-efficient, and secondly, encourage more rational decisions about retrofitting, demolition and new building.

The final goal is to make construction far cleaner than in the past. Methods like prefabrication are more energy- and carbon-efficient but under-used; fresh thinking will improve the industry’s ‘dire record on productivity growth’, says The Economist.

Building regs go net-zero

New building regulations to improve energy-efficiency which came into effect in June have set new standards for ventilation and heating, plus installing EV charge points in new residential buildings.

However, the major change that applies to home upgrades and extensions will push up prices at a time of material shortages and high labour costs, making greater efficiency even more important.

The aim to drive down heating bills in the long-term – even though in the short-term costs will rise.

New heating and insulation requirements will affect how much glazing can be used; to stop heat losses the total area of windows, glass doors and roof-lights must be no more than 25% of floor spaces. New windows and doors must be highly-insulated too.

Room spaces may shrink as external walls become circa 7cm thicker. With properties more airtight, measures like double-glazed window ‘trickle vents’ will ensure airflow. Ventilation will also stop solar over-heating and reduce condensation.

New heating systems will depend on the size of builds and must use lower temperature water to deliver the same heat through better insulated pipes.

Checklist to improve energy-efficiency

The Energy Saving Trust advises the following (https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/a-guide-energy-efficiency-in-the-workplace/): –

Heating – in non-domestic buildings heating can use up to 40% of workplace energy. Topping up insulation reduces losses; blocking draughts can force costs down.

The trust recommends checking: – when heaters or boilers were last serviced; plus whether heating and air conditioning systems are used together; hot water tanks, boilers and pipes are insulated; heating reflectors installed; you have smart heating controls; who is responsible for changing heating times through the year; and if windows are open when heating is on?

Tips – adjust timers to daylight savings, weekends, and bank holidays, with office thermostats set to heat at 19°C and cooling at 24°C; turn air conditioning off when people leave – or to manufacturer recommendations in IT server rooms; ensure desks are not too close or far from unobstructed radiators and air conditioning units.

Draughts – stop cold air from entering and warm air from escaping; fit draught-proofing; ensure employees know the cost of wasted heat and air conditioning; seal unused doors and windows – except emergency exits); tell staff thermostats must be turned down before opening windows.

Lighting – meeting rooms, storage areas and corridors are often lit unnecessarily. Remind employees and cleaners to switch lights off when leaving; use LEDs and motion sensors; replace dim lights.

Natural light is important. Windows should not be blocked or desks hidden in corners. Use light coloured or reflective paints; vertical window blinds let in more light in when open and closed.

Lighting sensors and controls are low-cost; timer switches can turn lights off outside working hours.

Equipment – office and work equipment can be high energy users; standby wastes energy. Laptop computers use less energy than desktops – set monitors to optimise brightness and switch both off at the plug; use power saving settings; set printers to automatic power down.

Kitchen equipment is also often overlooked. Unplug unused devices. Keep fridges not too full, and defrost regularly. Check seals and energy ratings; part-filling kettles; upgrade microwaves/kettles.

Production/manufacturing equipment – ensure maintenance; switch motors off during breaks – and fans and pumps at the end of the day; optimise speeds; listen for compressed air pipe leaks; change air filters regularly.

Webbed-footnote

In case you are worried about the frog’s fate, although some 19th-century experiments suggested they stay put if heated very gradual, modern biologists confirm they will jump clear.

Changing location is a natural thermoregulation strategy for the survival of frogs and other ectotherms (cold-blooded animals) in the wild.

No amphibians were harmed in writing this article.

Gearing up for the full low-carbon to net-zero journey

A new brand, reputation, and super-sized hub for the huge task ahead. The world’s environmental and energy prospects may look bleak. But there is also optimism as Lancashire starts to design and deliver the innovative minimum-carbon solutions that international markets need urgently.

Welcome to our redesigned and refurbished low carbon hub where from June 2022 integrated advice, consultancy, and advanced commercial support can all be found under one friendly roof.

We are now open for serious business in a new extremely proactive partnership formed by the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce’s Low Carbon Programme (CLC) and pioneering RedCAT project (https://www.red-cat.uk/) to close the gap between innovation and successful commercialisation.

As a result, our doors are physically open for anyone keen to cut their carbon footprint, prototype new ideas, or take breakthrough technologies to growing markets, to come and talk to us in-person.

But after two years of remote restrictions, the hub at the East Lancashire Chamber’s Red Rose Court headquarters in Accrington now includes unique and much-needed ‘hot desk’ co-working opportunities – but with some Covid safety measures still firmly in place!

An important precaution arriving visitors will notice is that registration at reception includes not only name, date, and time details, but also recorded body temperature – you can never be too careful!

A brand-new brand

The changes mean the hub can now offer a twin-track journey. The first is an extension of CLC’s now well-established energy-efficiency programme that moves businesses from high-carbon fossil-fuel use to low-carbon, net-zero, and eventually zero-carbon working.

However, companies with a strong commercial potential can then join RedCAT on a wider journey to overcome the tough technical, environmental, communication, marketing – but also very importantly financial – challenges involved in breaking successfully into competitive global markets.

After starting life in 2018 with EU-funded, and recently winning international recognition for its one-stop-shop-low-carbon brand, CLC has been approached to join several global low carbon initiatives.

However, its local goal is to take hundreds of firms, inventers and entrepreneurs through the UK’s low carbon and net-zero transition with maximum support and as little pain as possible.

Positive changes at a troubling time

Since 2020, the CLC programme has been largely limited to online events and consultancy.

Now, in the current ‘living despite Covid’ environment, long-planned changes are being implemented at a critical point where banishing human-made greenhouse gases emissions and beating climate change are more important than ever.

The Met Office warned in May that we now have a 48% chance by 2026 of breaching the 1.5°C temperature rise threshold set in the Paris climate agreement, albeit temporarily (https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/press-office/news/weather-and-climate/2022/decadal-forecast-2022).

But there are concerns about the overall direction of temperatures, given that they only rose 1.00C above the 19th century pre-industrial average in 2015 – the year the Paris agreement was signed.

Absolutely last change warning

In April 2022, the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also released the third of its gloomy global warming reports – “Mitigation of Climate Change which looked at practical ways to avoid severe climate change damage (https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg3/).

This followed just weeks after a second in the IPCC series – “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” (https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2/) which pinpointed causes and impacts of global warming.

The authors warn the world has until 2025 to pass ‘peak’ greenhouse gas emissions and keep permanent temperature rises down to 1.50C this century. Otherwise, UN general secretary António Guterres says we risk creating a world that is ‘unliveable’.

Ministers are also reported to have ‘brainstormed’ solutions in May for the cost-of-living crisis, and long-term plans to increase the UK’s secure energy mix.

However, there was widespread disappointment that realistic steps to increase energy-efficiency were not discussed formally – which is a natural entry point for the CLC programme!

The new low carbon and RedCAT journey

What visitors and clients will now experience at Red Rose Court is a powerful combination of offerings from CLC and RedCAT – which is also a partial-brainchild of the Chamber.

The CLC programme itself is split into ‘green’ and ‘blue’ activity streams.

Green provides advice and support to reduce carbon footprints, move to low-carbon renewables, and make the most of rapidly evolving low-carbon technologies.

Blue meanwhile focuses on the first stages of developing promising technical and business ideas that could be in demand in tough competitive markets.

RedCAT will then take selected candidates through the difficult step of securing development funding, with additional technical support and expert advice on training skilled staff, sourcing suitable admin, laboratory, and manufacturing space – and reaching out to unfamiliar marketplaces.

Graphic journey

The hub itself is also designed to be a low-carbon champion, with carefully separated and recycled waste streams, LED lighting, energy-efficient office equipment, and will include electric vehicle (EV) charging bays. It includes a seminar room, consultancy space, project meeting rooms, and support services.

The low-carbon journey is also shown graphically in wall displays, starting with 12th World Chambers Congress in Dubai November 2021 where the CLC programme was one of four finalists.

Up against tough competition from the Dublin Chamber of Commerce (Ireland), the Eskisehir Chamber of Industry (Turkey), and the Voka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Belgium), the CLC entry went on to win.

Each finalist had 4.5 minutes to present their project before facing six minutes of questioning from the panel. The international audience then voted on who was the winner – so we were judged by our peers around the world.

Crucially, the CLC team did not fly to Dubai! In keeping with the low-carbon message, a streamed video presentation was made to the judges led by Chamber CEO Miranda Barker who is also RedCAT’s CEO.

The CLC entry was commended for integrating the separate offers made by the other candidates within a single service, plus the experience, age, gender, and ethnic diversity of its Lancashire-based experts.

A very welcome cash prize has also paid for the new Red Rose Court EV charging bays!

International contacts

During the pandemic, the CLC programme’s online Lunch & Learn events drew a worldwide audience. Another important global link that is beginning to pay dividends is the British Chamber of Commerce net-zero and low-carbon campaign.

Abuja Chamber of Commerce and the University of Istanbul have both contacted us to work with them. No funding bid has been successful so far. However, we remain in contact and are looking for other opportunities.

Slovenian invitation

Stephen Sykes, as Director of Sustainability for the Chamber and its CLC programme, has also just returned from Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, at the invitation of the British Chambers of Commerce Slovenia where he spoke at one of a “Tea with Reason” series of events entitled “Rethinking Climate Goals”.

While there, he also met the British Chambers of Commerce Slovenia, the Slovenia Chamber of Commerce, and separately the Chamber of Craft and Small Business of Slovenia, to discuss potential collaboration projects.

Once again it is a matter of please watch this global space!

Moving to RedCAT

Stepping through from the CLC programme section at Red Rose Court into the RedCAT co-working hot desk space is easy physically. However, being selected as a RedCAT hot prospect is more difficult.

In an internal version of “The Dragon’s Den”, applicants must make a convincing technical and commercial case to a tough-minded selection panel.

This comprises Miranda, Stephen, RedCAT MD Stuart Thompson, and Ged Heffernan as RedCAT co-founder and River Power Pod inventor (http://www.fern-flowing-power.com/index.html).

Even with a strong business case, applicants still have to answer the $64,000 question of “does anybody actually want this product of service?” Life can be hard.

Wider low carbon responsibilities

RedCAT is now central to the present and long-term future of the low carbon programme beyond its initial EU-funded five-year brief. However, it is not the only component.

CLC is also committed to delivering the UK Community Renewal Fund in Blackburn and Darwen, Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-community-renewal-fund-prospectus).

The team also works closely with larger Chamber members not classified as SMEs that are equally keen to minimise their carbon footprints and reach net-zero. Many are in manufacturing and engineering. But an important component is local colleges.

Meet the extended team

Stephen Sykes has managed and guiding the CLC programme since it started in 2018 and believes strongly that the only way to tackle mounting climate and ecological challenges is through collaboration that leads to real results for people, planet, and prosperity.

Many people will also already know Darren Thomas (Programme Supply Chain Manager), Chris Gibbons (Energy & Environmental Advisor), and Omonor Gladys (Energy & Environmental Advisor)

In June we look forward to welcoming Debbie Treadwell (Marketing Officer (East Lancs) back from maternity leave.

However, we will also be joined by Segun Odeyingbo (Environmental Consultant) and Sobia Khurram (Environmental Consultant) who have worked extensively with UN and World Bank and will considerably extend the capabilities of the CLC team.

They will be supported by Clare Scurr (Marketing Officer (North and Western Lancs), Neha Sahail (Administrative Assistant), and Kelly McGrane (Finance Assistant).

Additional RedCAT support

Successful RedCAT candidates will retain their access to CLC consultants, but with additional professional guidance and advice from RedCAT’s own strong team.

MD Stuart Thompson is an internationally experienced director who helps CEOs and boards build, value and create successful companies. He brings extensive experience from multiple sectors, including energy, digital, telecommunications and manufacturing. Stuart also specialises in raising investment, strategy, sales and marketing, and the commercialisation of low carbon technology.

Nicola Greenhalgh will manage the project and programme journey of portfolio businesses through their RedCAT experience on a day-to-day basis. This includes relationships between investors and investees, information and data governance, as well as policing grant expenditure and the good delivery of services from RedCAT’s consultant database and other partners to portfolio companies.

Jamie Parker Jarvis specialises in social and public policy; he helps businesses to conduct market and technology research. His work involves research, analysis, and consultation on net zero policy, plus understanding regulatory changes, new legislation, and policy consequences of political shifts. He also helps RedCAT portfolio companies access public funding for product and market development.

And that, as they say, is your team. Any questions?

Global energy problems … Northwest low-carbon answers

Worldwide worries – local solutions. As the UK’s new strategy to head off the global energy crisis is criticised for neglecting onshore wind and energy-efficiency, the Chamber Low Carbon Programme (CLC) and RedCAT project are taking the good fight to international audiences and markets.

A daunting international and national start to April improved during the month with encouraging Lancashire and Northwest low-carbon news that will have significant long-term benefits.

Two major documents set against a backdrop of deepening economic, political, and environmental crises contained ominous energy warnings … but also slim opportunities for avoiding the worst outcomes.

Northwest help is at hand

However, positive changes closer to home mean that pioneering low-carbon product and technology companies can now look forward to much-needed new help in reaching wider UK and international audiences.

The catalyst is CLC programme and RedCAT project developments that will be unveiled in May. A preview of what to expect – plus two case study overviews of RedCAT funding, technical and worldwide marketing help in action – is given below.

Also included below is an analysis by East Lancashire Chamber CEO, Miranda Barker of shortfalls and missed opportunities in the UK’s new energy security strategy.

Three-year final warning

The first document published on 4th April was a frantic warning from UN scientists that global warming is still not being taken seriously (“Mitigation of Climate Changehttps://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg3/).

They now give the world just three years until 2025 to get its act together, pass peak carbon, and move on very swiftly to net-zero by 2050. We will look at the implications more closely next month.

However, the British Energy Security Strategy, released on 6th April to stimulate a ‘major acceleration of home-grown power generation’ in both low-carbon and fossil-fuels, has been criticised for neglecting onshore wind power and greater energy-efficiency (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/major-acceleration-of-homegrown-power-in-britains-plan-for-greater-energy-independence).

Better homefront news – part 1

As explained above, Lancashire’s good news is twofold. The first part is that Chamber Low Carbon Programme (CLC) events, after two years of lockdown when our online events were joined regularly by international visitors, are going live and in-person again.

As well as an expanding events programme, in May we will announce new CLC team expert appointments, a messaging change from low-carbon to net-zero, plus new activities to energise our initial five-year mission which ends in June 2023.

On the ground, the developments will include a new low-carbon hub with a co-working space for businesses in the RedCAT area within the Chamber headquarters at Red Rose Court, Clayton Business Park in Accrington.

Meanwhile, in the first-ever edition of Insider’s Green Power List, Miranda, who is also RedCAT’s CEO, and Stephen Sykes, Director of Sustainability for the Chamber and its CLC programme, are now listed as Champions for their commitment to sustainability, commercialising low-carbon technologies, and support for the low-carbon economy.

Yet another string of our expanding international reach and credentials, Stephen has been invited to Shanghai to speak at and exhibit at the UK and China Carbon Expo (due to the current Covid-19 lockdown in Shanghai this has been postponed) and Ljubljana in Slovenia to talk and share the Chamber’s experience of Net Zero and engaging SMEs and supporting them on their journey.

These are transferable strengths, assets and values that we want to share. Watch this space!

RedCAT low-carbon mission – part 2

The second part of Lancashire’s good news is that the RedCAT project (https://www.red-cat.uk/) is now actively supporting low-carbon entrepreneurs and leaders with practical resources and commercial advice to win firm footholds in key markets.

The county is already a significant global advanced manufacturing centre. RedCAT is helping to bridge a technical and financial gap between the development and commercialisation of low-carbon products, technologies, and services.

As the Lancashire Centre for Alternative Technologies, it helps carefully-selected projects to find funding, maximise innovation, increase manufacturing, and enter local, UK and world markets.

As examples of what can be achieved, we look later at two key companies – Advanced Bacterial Sciences, a spin-off from Lancaster University, and Global Energy Systems, based in Lytham.

The UK’s new secure energy strategy

However, before that it is important to understand how the energy strategy is meant to ensure that 95% of UK power comes from renewables by 2030 – with UK net-zero goals unchanged.

Nuclear capacity will rise from 7GW to 24GW if up to eight new power stations are built. Rolls Royce hopes to bring sixteen £2 billion small modular reactors (SMRs) made in Lancashire online by 2025.

The offshore wind capacity target will also rise from 40GW to 50GW; 5GW could come from floating turbines. Current capacity is 11GW. There is a mild commitment to onshore wind; 10GW of green’ and ‘blue’ hydrogen power could also be available by 2030

Solar energy should see a fivefold capacity increase from 14GW to 70GW by 2035. There will be an ‘impartial’ review into whether controversial fracking technology is safe.

The good, the bad, and the missed opportunities

Miranda sees the strategy as good news for new nuclear and Lancashire’s energy sector, but missed opportunities in onshore wind and the energy efficiency drivers needed for “a real shift to net-zero”.

Nuclear commitments – including SMRs – must be ‘executed at pace’ to secure the ‘future of our expertise in nuclear fuels innovation, manufacture in the UK, and associated jobs in Lancashire,’ she says, with nuclear vital for a ‘transition to low carbon energy production and hydrogen generation’.

But she is disappointed at the “… lukewarm approach to onshore wind” which avoids “a significant source of low carbon energy” and “demonstrates a lack of commitment to real energy transition”.

No efficiency measures

However, Miranda is also appalled by “… no mention of energy efficiency/support for energy use reduction plans for businesses, homeowners, new builds and retrofitting across the UK”.

This is because “… the first step in any energy security, energy supply or energy transition has to be to reduce the amount we use, and will need to use into the future”, she notes.

An “energy-responsible strategy for the UK”, with firm public sector procurement measures and a national and local purchasing framework, plus proactive energy plans from suppliers, is vital too.

Another priority should be “setting firm planning baselines for energy efficiency measures in all new build domestic and industrial premises, and for retrofitting all re-licenced premises”, she believes.

“A sound licencing procedure for Green Finance schemes would have helped householders and small businesses to use energy saving technologies now to reduce spiralling energy costs,” Miranda adds.

RedCAT to the rescue

A challenge many enterprising companies keen to expand face is closing the gap between innovation and successful commercialisation – or as Miranda describes it, ‘the Valley of Death’.

“RedCAT is about accelerating the development of low-carbon technologies and putting them on the grid in Lancashire with a potential to export to the world,” she explains.

“We have the world’s fourth largest aerospace cluster, plus an advanced manufacturing capability, and are a major centre of low-carbon technology and job creation. In fact, Lancashire has the highest number of potential future low-carbon jobs per local head of working-age population in the UK,” she adds.

Lack of finance and demonstrator capacity

“However, it can take decades for innovative companies to commercialise successfully, mainly because there is no flow-through of funding. We are able to fill that gap,” she continues.

The RedCAT capital funding  – £1.5 million from the Government’s Getting Building Fund secured with the sterling support of the Lancashire LEP – is for ‘kit’, she stresses, adding, “What makes RedCAT unique is that it provides technical, marketing and funding support in one place. It also specialises in taking post-university spinouts to market.”

“There is also a shortage of demonstrator capacity, which is why we are fortunate to have the AMRC North West (Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre – https://www.amrc.co.uk/facilities/amrc-north-west) on our doorstep at Samlesbury and their successful Low Carbon Demonstrator project also supported by £2.5 million from the Getting Building Fund.”

RedCAT in practice

RedCAT first assesses whether businesses are close enough to commercialisation, and have the right potential, for it to support. This is where the expertise of consultants like Ian Trow comes in.

If, with Ian’s input and help, the answer is ‘yes’, the first step is often identifying initial funding to put exciting projects on track, followed by additional help to access further financial sources.

However, support also includes business planning plus business rationale, and publicity to send sales messages to chosen markets.

Advanced Bacterial Sciences (ABS) (www.abs.eco)

Ian has worked closely with ABS, a spin-off of the Environment Centre at Lancaster University, which over the next two years will create 50 jobs at its new laboratory, office, and innovation centre of excellence at White Lund.

The company was part of Lancashire’s delegation to COP26 in 2021 and will provide environmentally friendly solutions for three interlocking global crises – climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

Importantly, its new location means ABS can reduce its current use of third-party manufacturing outsourcing while providing a more tailored approach to customer needs.

ABS is developing a series of products that harness non-toxic, non-pathogenic bacterial solutions to solve pressing environmental problems. These currently include natural remedial and regenerative solutions.

First generation products reduce uric acid build-up in urinals and unblocking grease traps eliminating the need for the need to use toxic chemicals and costly interventions and reduce water pollution restoring ecological balance.

– Help to navigate challenges

“The financial and technical support from RedCAT and connected ‘assets’ has enabled us to accelerate our product development plans more efficiently and cost effectively,” explains ABS CEO and Chairman, Gareth Hughes.

“By leveraging RedCAT’s valuable and relevant informed connections, Ian Trow has helped us to navigate through a number of what would otherwise have been more difficult challenges. Locating in the Northwest is proving to be the right decision and we are excited about the future,” he adds.

Global Energy Systems (GES) (https://globalenergysystems.co.uk/)

GES is an established renewable energy company based at Lytham which designs and manufactures air source heat pumps that extract energy from the air around them and are seen as a much-needed alternative to fossil-fuel gas or oil-fired boilers.

What makes GES’ products stand out is that they are designed specifically to work in the British climate. Working with a network of UK installers, the company draws on 50-years of international experience.

However, the last decade has been dedicated to renewable energy technology via high-performance air source heat pumps; GES’ Eco Air Boiler which provides central heating and hot water can cut CO2 emissions by 60% and heating bills by up to 65%.

Awarded a Shell Springboard Award for carbon-reduction technologies, its designs outperform gas, oil and electric systems and have a 25-year life expectancy.

RedCAT has helped to source funding for a temporary plant extension to double manufacturing production ahead of a permanent extension to increase output tenfold.

Ben Morris, Managing Director of GES, explains how significant this is for the company at an important time. “We are facing the challenge of having to significantly increase our production capabilities to enable us to meet the rising demand and new opportunities we are experiencing,” he says.

“RedCAT and Ian Trow have been instrumental in providing us with the support we need for our expansion, thereby allowing us to play our part in aiding the Government’s Heat and Building Strategy.

“We thank RedCAT and Ian for their invaluable and ongoing support.”

Low carbon levelling up

Debbie Francis, Lancashire LEP Chair, adds “The Getting Building Fund at its heart is about creating new economic opportunities post pandemic, and RedCAT, Lancashire’s Centre for Alternative Technologies, will do exactly that.

“By helping to fund and grow the County’s low carbon technologies jobs and expertise, supporting advanced manufacturing and the export of UK designed and built low carbon technology to the world.

“This is exactly what we mean when we look at levelling up, putting the County at the heart of innovation and development”.

Short-term problems and long-term promises

Spring statement, stimuli, and strife. The Chancellor announced a mixed bag of economic measures in March to help with the energy and cost of living crises – including some help for low-carbon initiatives. UN scientists, meanwhile, have warned that the climate emergency is getting worse faster.

Early in March, the Government said it would draw up new energy supply measures to better align the UK’s energy mix to international pressures, and specifically the effects of war in Eastern Europe.

Although there have been extensive rumours and second-guessing about what the secure energy strategy will contain, world events have helped to push the Prime Minister final announcement into early April.

Informed speculation suggests that there could be a substantial boost for new nuclear power plants, plus a drive for onshore wind investments that would reverse a moratorium imposed six years ago.

There are also reports of some disagreements about whether strict planning laws should be loosened to encourage the rapid development of renewable resources to make the UK more independent of both energy imports and high international energy market prices.

Why heat pumps matter

One ‘certainty’ may be an extra emphasis on the efficiency and low energy use of heat pumps. Anticipating this, we would like to invite to join us at the next Chamber Low Carbon LIVE Lunch and Learn event – ‘Demystifying Heat Pumps’ – from 12.00 to 14.00 on Thursday, 14th April.

To register, please go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/chamber-low-carbon-live-lunch-and-learn-demystifying-heat-pumps-tickets-228865792747?aff=odeccpebemailcampaigns&utm_source=eventbrite&utm_medium=ebcampaigns&utm_campaign=4823359&utm_term=ctabutton&mipa=ABIdvVt-wLOfNPDdyjSsRZC-U7FwYRdyYO1Z63wjQQzhxo3bB27RIk3O09seUI8e-JUxo0HpvGoL2wQIE0UhWTc6oKa3HXT4iKIpA_yUbOrLpN6MlsE-omNfpGgjOTjAAI65kfBY-qDP6RXrjqa6AE-ciA976EPtHmvSblMtJGHt7oA6IcgdEOukbe7xVR9-3A1A9IBKjKJoA7OcNbs505F2tnTTJAo4qZFvo7tktSFqSnVTe-emzFa5w7Ipr4d38T1_1cDWBv1y0ENutbbxWMOgTpbCBliH5A#tickets

Rising climate impacts and biodiversity

When Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was asked to name the greatest challenge for statesmen in the turbulent 1960’s, his reply was, ‘Events, dear boy, events’. Little seems to have changed.

It is easy to forget that the climate crisis is getting worse, according to the latest IPCC report which made recent headlines but has been buried since by current news events. There is also disappointing news on international protection for biodiversity – the sister of climate change impacts.

More on both of these key issues in a moment.

The Treasury gets its retaliation in first

What did happen on 23rd March was that the Chancellor made his Spring Statement. Facing high debt levels with little financial wiggle-room, he set out what is seen as a compromise to balance cost, supply, and geo-political factors with environmental, technical and innovation priorities.

On the positive low-carbon side, he has paused VAT on energy efficiency measures to help tackle high energy bills. Homeowners will pay no VAT on solar panels, electric heat pumps and insulation installed in the next five years.

Mr Sunak said energy efficiency will make a “big difference” in curbing rising energy bills, adding that the Government will reverse the EU’s decision to take wind and water turbines ‘out of scope’; EU ‘red tape’ will be abolished too.

“A family having a solar panel installed will see tax savings worth over £1,000, and savings on their energy bill of over £300 per year,” he told MPs. Energy efficiency measures in the last decade will save UK homes £1.2 billion this year, an average of nearly £200 for six million homes, the Government suggests. It adds that it has committed £6.6 billion to energy efficiency improvements.

Greenpeace UK sees VAT on insulation, solar panels, and heat pumps as a ‘welcome start’ to end a huge waste of energy from leaky homes, keep bills down, and cut gas use.

The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) comments that, “Removing VAT on energy efficiency products such as insulation is an immediate boost for families facing soaring gas bills”, but adds that, “… there are lots more tools within the Chancellor’s grasp for getting off Russian gas and reducing household bills,” – such as low-interest loans and incentivising the switch away from gas boilers.

Moving heat – not making it

A powerful case for the widespread adoption of heat pump technology has also been made in “Why You (and the Planet) Really Need a Heat Pump” – https://www.wired.com/story/why-you-the-planet-need-heat-pump/?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits.

It explains that heat pumps work on the same principle as refrigerators, transferring heat rather than creating heat. They keep food cold not by pumping cool air in but by pumping warm air out. In summer, heat pumps cool buildings by moving hot indoor air out-of-doors.

Similarly in winter, they warm buildings by working as ‘reverse refrigerators’, extracting outdoor heat and bringing it indoors, even on cold UK days. This is important for Northwest innovators.

Climate change impacts will be devastating … but avoidable

Going back to other continuing crises, the UN International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that many global warming effects are now irreversible, pushing humans and nature beyond their ability to adapt. But businesses can help to avoid or reduce the worst impacts.

Between late 2021 and August 2022, the IPCC will release a series of four seminal studies compiled over seven years into the causes, impacts, solutions, and lessons learned about climate change.

With two still to be released in 2022, they already make disturbing reading (https://www.ipcc.ch/).

The first in August 2021 on the physical science of global warning found conclusive evidence that human activity is an ‘unequivocally’ cause of accelerating climate change.

The second released recently – “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” – focusses on causes and solutions, and details how we can adapt and protect against some negative effects (https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2/).

Companies on the frontline

‘Irreversible’ impacts include melting ice caps and glaciers, plus cascade effects where wildfires, dying forests, drying peatlands, and thawing permafrost release further emissions that amplify the initial warming.

Businesses are being asked to set sustainable long-term goals to cut energy consumption, use renewables, reduce waste and early obsolescence, reassess transport needs, develop green supply chains, and adopt low-carbon and heat-free technologies.

Options

IPCC authors caution that the Earth’s ability to adapt to impacts will diminish rapidly the higher temperatures rise, and quickly reach ‘hard’ limits after which adaptation will be impossible.

However, they stress over-heating is not inevitable if the world can come together to suppress the release of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to atmosphere – and carbon dioxide and methane in particular.

A third assessment due in April 2022 will cover how greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced; a fourth in October will then help to show countries meeting at Egypt’s COP27 climate summit how to make the cuts that were not achieved at COP26.

Bleak picture

Emphasising that the chances of avoiding the worst impacts are narrowing rapidly, the UN panel said in their ‘bleakest warning yet’ that the global climate emergency is deteriorating much faster than previously expected.

They added that no inhabited region will now escape severe rising temperatures and extreme weather. More than 40% of people – 3.3 billion to 3.6 billion– already live in ‘highly vulnerable’ areas. Millions will face food and water shortages if current heating levels continue.

Worse still, circa half the planet’s population now suffer severe annual water shortages. One in three are exposed to deadly heat stress, a figure that could rise to 50% or 75% by 2100.

An additional 500,000 people every year now face serious flooding risks. This figure is projected to reach a billion on low-lying coasts by 2050. Rising temperatures and rainfall will also increase the spread of crop, livestock, and wildlife diseases.

Threats to the natural world

Meanwhile, nature is also under siege in more ways than one.

The jet stream moves eastwards in the Northern Hemisphere at 110mph driven by the Earth’s rotation. However, it has now started an unprecedented shift northward which could bring more droughts and heat waves to southern Europe and the eastern US.

A recent study (https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2104105118) suggests that the delicate balance of warm and cold air which keeps the stream in place is changing. Without a curb on emissions, the stream will break out of its normal range by 2060.

The result could be increasingly severe climate risks that may affect the polar vortices which cause sudden intense cold snaps.

Water on the move

Climate change is also amplifying the earth’s water cycle above predicted rates. Rising temperatures have pushed at least twice the normal amount of freshwater from warm regions towards the poles.

The intensity of the global water cycle has increased by 7.4% compared to previous modelling estimates of 2% to 4%, the journal Nature reports. As a result, sub-tropical regions will get drier.

From 1970 to 2014, the estimated volume of additional freshwater transferred from warmer regions is somewhere between 46,000 and 77,000 kms3.

NGOs want biodiversity action by UN members

Environmental interest groups have asked the UN to adopt a Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) to “achieve a nature positive world by 2030”. The Nature Conservancy, WWF International, Conservation International and Wildlife Conservation Society want to reverse species losses.

Unfortunately, late-March talks between 195 countries in Geneva were described as a ‘major disappointment’ with failure to agree on any of 21 new targets.

This means that the second part of the UN’s convention on biological diversity (CBD) due to start on 25th April in Kunming, China has been delayed for a fourth time and moved back to August 2022; the first part closed in October 2021. The ambition is to halt nature loss by 2030, with a net-positive gain to follow so that humanity can ‘live in harmony with nature’ by 2050.

Seen as the natural equivalent of net-zero for emissions, the agreement is now more than 18 months behind schedule due to Covid-19.

About 50% of living creatures might now be moving towards higher ground or the poles. Some 14% of species may face a very high extinction risk with a temperature rise of 1.50C, increasing to 29% at 30C. The extinction risk of animals in vulnerable biodiversity hotspots could double at 20C, and increased tenfold at 30C.

Forests do more than store carbon

Trees, particularly in tropical forests, play a more complex role in tackling climate crisis than previously thought because of their physical effects on global and local temperatures, according to new research. They act as ‘carbon sponges’, but also help to keep air nearby and farther away cool and moist by the way they physically transform energy and water.

Researchers have found that, overall, forests keep the planet at least 0.50C cooler when biophysical effects of chemical compounds, turbulence and reflected light are combined with carbon dioxide.

Hedging bets

In cooler northern climes, gardeners can do their bit to future-proof towns and cities by planting hedges between properties, says the Royal Horticultural Society that is studying which species best tackle the climate crisis and pollution.

Hedges reduce pollution, improve air quality, slow the flow of rainwater, assist flood management, provide shelter for wildlife, and help to regulate temperatures through shading and cooling.

In fact, the humble hedge is now seen as a garden hero that provides important environmental services relatively cheaply over long periods on small ground footprints.

So, the message to save the world is simple. Don’t sit on the fence!

Carbon Cutting in the Home Office By Hannah Drake CEO of Enerlytic

I went out for a business meeting last week. Yes; that’s right. I went OUT for a business meeting last week; and boy did it feel good! The event took place in the coffee shop (outdoors) of a local garden centre; it was about an hour long, two cups of hot chocolate and a 15 minute drive there and back.

It sounds pretty routine, even hum-drum, but it was a truly seismic event, as the first time I’ve been to a business ‘meeting’ in 15 months without opening my laptop, clicking the link and then taking off ‘mute’. It was truly liberating to go out to work… but then my thoughts turned, naturally, to the petrol cost and consumption, the energy output of the coffee shop etc, etc… and I resolved that the remote way of working, to which we have all become used to and generally comfortable with, must be good for the planet.

Well it is, but that’s not the end of the story. UK companies have already realised just how big a chunk of their carbon footprint is made up of home working. Investment business Standard Life Aberdeen is already onto it, having reported that 55 per cent of their emissions come from their remote working employees, and now they are asking staff to monitor their carbon footprints to help the company meet its ambitious reduction targets, and build on the advantages which working from home bring.

When the United Nations produced its Development Programme back in 2015, adopted by 193 countries, it proposed 17 Goals, two of which are greatly assisted by the rapid growth in home working, which was not anticipated at the time.

Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable ad modern energy for all

This target aimed to double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and working at home reduces the impact of commutes and can increase the efficiency of building energy. Employees are in control of their own heat and light usage and keep an eye on their own bills.

Take urgent action to combat climate change

By working at home as much as possible, not only do employees reduce the companies’ travel emissions, there is the added benefit that people can continue to work during adverse weather conditions, and so the well rehearsed radio message, during icy weather, which counsels us to ‘avoid travelling unless absolutely necessary’ makes more sense now.

Which is all good; but the explosion of remote offices and the likely shift to hybrid models of working has, rightly, turned the attention of Standard Life and others to the area where most of their footprint is generated. And while people who pay the bills will often have a close eye on their cost and consumption, it can’t always be the case when that priority fights for attention with the family or other householders!

But 55 per cent can’t be left unattended and there must be many cases where home energy efficiency lags behind the office; and so Standard Life is using anonymised data which aims to better understand its workers’ emissions. Employees are tracking their energy use through an app, which will measure their carbon footprint and help them to make positive changes.

Here in the UK we have a weather system which is designed to test our usage of energy. Remember lockdown 2020 when the biggest challenge was to stay inside and get some work done while our furloughed friends and family sparked up the barbeque? Well 12 months on we have just endured a May which was indistinguishable from February!

Home workers who usually retire the central heating after Easter, have been heating their offices for much of the day, even now as we approach June, so Standard Life has it right. We all need to be aware of our carbon footprint, not just as citizens but as workers too, and the first step is to measure what we use, understand the data and then make the most impactful changes.

We haven’t seen the end of coffee shop meetings, but the daily commute is fast becoming a chore of the past, and that sounds like a good balance to me.

Original source https://www.enerlytic.co.uk/post/carbon-cutting-in-the-home-office