£5bn green drive to keep lid on power bills for decade

Paul Hamer
Paul Hamer
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HOMES and businesses across Yorkshire could be protected from huge rises in their energy bills through a major investment programme of green efficiency measures that would help cut carbon emissions by 40 per cent and create 10,000 new jobs.

The world’s first in-depth report into city-level green economics has concluded that a £5bn investment in measures such as home insulation, wood-burning boilers and energy-efficient equipment across the Leeds city region would pay for itself in just four years – and then prevent fuel bills from soaring by a third over the next 10 years.

Business leaders from across the city region – which incorporates all of West Yorkshire as well as York, Barnsley, Harrogate and Craven – were yesterday hailing the “significant investment opportunity” outlined in the report, making clear the vast majority of measures are either profitable or at worst cost-neutral.

The Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has announced it will now form a new panel to look at the best way to implement the green efficiency drive, using both public funds and private investment capital.

The Yorkshire Post revealed yesterday the scheme could create 1,000 new jobs per year up to 2022 – about 10,000 altogether.

Speaking at a launch event at the Queens hotel in Leeds, LEP board member Paul Hamer – who will chair the new panel – said the new report creates a “credible business case” for low-carbon investments that could be put before financiers for the first time.

“We have to keep this simple,” said Mr Hamer, who is chief executive of global consultancy giant WYG. “When you cut through the jargon, we are talking about reducing people’s energy bills. That is what it boils down to.

“From every £1bn we invest in this arena we could generate about £220m in energy savings, and we can create 1,000 new jobs across the region.

“When you stand back and look at it in totality, we have got an investment opportunity of £5bn that pays itself back in four years. It is a significant opportunity.

“And by 2022, if we decide to grasp this nettle, we could cut 1990-level carbon emissions by 35 or 40 per cent. We are talking about a substantial shift.”

The report has been put together by academics from the Centre for Low Carbon Futures, a joint venture between several of Yorkshire’s leading universities.

It has been dubbed the “Mini-Stern” report, being a local-level response to the landmark 2006 Stern Review which made the economic case for green investment on a global scale.

Its lead author, Professor Andy Gouldson of Leeds University, said the vast majority of measures are very simple to implement.

“This is not rocket science, this is not waiting for major new technology to come through,” he said. “These are normal day-to-day things that could be changed and made more efficient.”

The study says installing wood-burning boilers in people’s homes will be one of the most cost-effective measures, once the Government introduces a new subsidy scheme this summer.

It also recommends loft and cavity wall insulation, more efficient electronic equipment in offices and other commercial premises, and more efficient burners and coolers for industry.

It says park-and-ride sites and bus and cycle lanes are the most cost-effective transport measures.

Behavioural changes such as turning down the central heating by 1C, washing clothes at 30C, turning electronic equipment off standby and turning lights off earlier would also deliver huge savings, the report confirms.

Prof Gouldson said that if no action is taken, the city region’s current total energy bill of £5.4bn per year – 10 per cent of its entire GDP – will soar to £7.24bn by 2022.

The proposed investment programme would almost entirely negate this forecast increase.

“Doing nothing is really not an option,” Prof Gouldson said.