Green MEP proposes overhaul of energy in the east

The East of England will face “catastrophic” consequences unless action is taken on the way it uses energy, Green Party MEP for the region, Catherine Rowett, has said.

On 20 January, Rowett released a report, Energising the East: An energy transformation plan for the climate emergency, which explored options for decarbonising the East of England by 2030. With the region’s carbon budget to 2100 being 200.5mn tonnes of carbon dioxide, the report warned that based on the East’s annual carbon footprint, it faces having just six years of current activity from 2020 until that budget is spent.

In order to reach genuine zero emissions by 2030, the report outlined the “several substantial challenges” that the Eastern region energy system would need to overcome. These include transport emissions, which were noted as being a “national crisis”, addressing emissions from gas power and heat in the domestic and industry, commercial and agriculture (ICA) sectors and full decarbonisation of electricity in the domestic and ICA sectors. The report noted that the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) and heat pumps will push up demand and while government projections of the grid carbon factor have shown very significant decarbonisation of electricity by 2030, it said that this would have to be intensified before a smart, local, distributed renewable electricity grid is to follow.

The report made a series of proposals for policy interventions in a bid to tackle these challenges and overhaul the energy system in the East. It called for a retrofit of 1.3mn homes, starting with 156,000 being insulated in 2020, with this measure removing more than 50% of fossil-fuel powered heat demand. Elsewhere, it advocated transferring the remaining homes heat requirements by rapidly replacing fossil fuel heating and replacing it with air- and ground-source heat pumps. This would see 1.5mn homes cease to be heated by fossil fuels. It also called for the installation of rooftop solar PV on 1.5mn homes, generating 2.68Twh of zero-carbon electricity.

These three policies, it said, would reduce the current domestic footprint of 9.03MtCO2 to less than 1MtCO2 by 2030. To remove further carbon from the system, the report suggested two “stretch actions” that could help. These were more rapid electricity decarbonisation than set out in the BEIS Energy and Emissions Projections and additional decarbonisation from the rollout of flexible, distributed smart grids in the region.

Other suggestions to be made included a complete switch to renewable energy sources, eradicating fossil fuel consumption, switching 50% of all car journeys to walking, cycling or public transport – with the remaining cars being electrified – and Rowett advocating the creation of close to 40,000 long-term jobs in the East, with a focus on community projects.

Speaking at the launch of the report in Norwich, Rowett said: “As we enter 2020, a whole raft of councils in the East of England have declared a climate emergency, but no government has plans adequate to the scale of the global overheating challenge. Generating green energy at local scale can help create regional jobs, building community cohesion, and reducing the demand for imported gas and for dirty, centralised and foreign-owned power stations like Great Yarmouth or Sizewell.”

Catherine Rowett MEP   EDP