Thinking back, 2008 was an interesting year - Britain was teetering on the brink of a deep recession and the transport secretary was attempting to ‘turbo charge’ the economy by investing millions of pounds to bring about a ‘Green Motoring Revolution’. Does any of that sound familiar?
Move on 12 years later to 2020, and there is a sense of déjà vu. The Financial Times is asking if Britain can create a ‘green jobs revolution’ and the UK Government is again pledging millions of pounds in the hope that it will help the UK become a leader in the field of ultra-low emission vehicles.
Well… will it?
Very possibly. The potential investment pot is a lot bigger than it was last time. Whereas 2008 saw spending pledges in the hundreds of millions, the Government has now multiplied these pledges ten fold. This investment is aiming to make the UK a global leader in the manufacture and development of electric vehicles and battery technology, as well as a more hospitable place for electric vehicles.
The theory is that investors will be encouraged by the combination of a strong domestic market and ‘home grown’ EV manufacturing expertise, and so will be keen to invest in new production facilities that will support many thousands of jobs.
Generating a market
Despite the many benefits electric vehicles have, they are still lagging behind the internal combustion engine. One of the reasons for this is electric vehicles’ relatively short driving range. So called “range anxiety” is compounded by a scarcity of en-route and destination charge points, and when these charge points are available, they typically need over an hour before they are able to get your vehicle back on the road. To combat this issue, the UK Government has committed £1bn to support UK electricity networks so they are ready to cope with the intense demands that come with the ‘super-fast’ charging points that are necessary to make electric vehicles feasible for long distance travel.
The Government is also planning to invest heavily in research and development. Unspecified sums are being made available this year to attract investment in ‘gigafactories’. These aim to mass produce batteries and other electric vehicle components which will be used in the burgeoning domestic, and global markets.
In an attempt to support British companies looking to join this market, the Government is also making £10m of funding available immediately to allow a range of innovative R&D projects to scale-up manufacturing of the latest technology in batteries, motors, electronics and fuel cells. These projects, if successful, will then be allocated further funding that will allow them to progress initial site planning and preparation for manufacturing plants and industry clusters across the UK. If these projects perform particularly well at that stage, the Government has committed to spending up to an additional £1bn in an attempt to attract investment in electric vehicle supply chains and R&D to the UK.
The final goal set out by No. 10 is for the UK to produce the world’s first zero emission long haul passenger aircraft. The potential benefits this would bring are likely to be proportional to the scale of the challenge.
What to watch out for
If we look past the rhetoric, and the grand visions of a future in which the UK’s brilliant researchers found our very own version of Silicone Valley (Lithium valley perhaps?) this announcement is clearly stating that the UK intends to move away from the internal combustion engine, and make the move to electric vehicles.
This decision brings a huge range of opportunities for a wide range of organisations. Landowners could improve their planning prospects by installing them. Investment funds can boost their green credentials, and secure ongoing returns by investing in portfolios of them. Retail operators can gain a commercial advantage over their competitors by offering discounted charging to their customers. Charge point operators themselves could even utilise the giant battery connected to their equipment to offer balancing services to the national grid.
All of these opportunities represent entire new industries that can support many hundreds of jobs, so yes, a green jobs revolution could well be on the way
For further information please do contact Isaac Murdy or Mark Bartholomew, or another member of our networks and infrastructure team.