Blazing the path to net zero

By Ben Simcock | 15 March 2022

Ben Simcock discusses how government-funded decarbonisation schemes are trailblazing change.

The last two years has been tumultuous to say the least; and the hope of a fresh start in 2022 has been swiftly quelled by petrifying world events. Unfortunately, the ever-looming threat of climate change persists among the chaos and serves as a stark warning that we are short on time.

But among the uncertainty, there are some remarkable victories in the net zero transition that can’t be overlooked; and now more than ever, it feels important to shine a light on some of the positives, so we can celebrate successes, learn from them, and look forward to a brighter future.

Unlike several other governments across the globe, Number 10 didn’t just set a target and rely on individual sectors to revolutionise energy consumption or infrastructure development. It led by example with the introduction of bespoke funding pots to support decarbonisation across key energy consuming estates, and it’s something we can already see is proving a success.

As a business, EQUANS has supported its partners to access funds from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS) and the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) among others; and have witnessed a powerful rippling effect across the public sector. The strict timescales to submit applications put the pressure on organisations looking to benefit from the funds; and each new wave has bolstered interest.

We have seen first-hand how strong the appetite is to access this funding. It has pushed those in the public and social housing sectors to fully assess their carbon baseline and put plans in motion. Importantly, it has encouraged us as a company, together with our peers, to continue innovating and offer bespoke solutions for customers.

Through the SHDF, we are making energy efficient improvements to social housing schemes in Leeds, Northampton, Rotherham, Bradford and Tamworth. We also recently began work to remove gas-powered central heating systems across two tower blocks in Newcastle, replacing them with Ground Source Heat Pumps, thanks to a cash injection from the fund.

Through the PSDS, some key successes include securing funding for Leeds City Council, to decarbonise public buildings across the city. We were awarded £10m to support Rochdale Borough Council to decarbonise public buildings, schools and leisure centres; and we secured funds for Doncaster Council to refurbish a leisure centre. We will also be imminently starting work with Northumbria University, which has been granted £1.5m to replace end-of-life gas boilers with Air Source Heat Pumps.

Each of these projects is poised to deliver exactly what was asked by the Government; and should offer BEIS (Department for Business, Energy, Infrastructure, and Industrial Strategy), who implemented the schemes, reassurances that it is an effective investment in our future.

The partnerships created through the schemes have demonstrated practically how the industry can achieve net zero and provided a roadmap for other sectors, that now need to take stock.

We work with partners in local authorities, housing associations, registered providers, and schools every day; and climate change is consistently top of the agenda. The passion is evident and the desire for support is strong – practically and financially.

Three quarters of the UK’s local authorities have declared a climate emergency, but very few have a plan of how to practically achieve net zero. These schemes require local authorities to collaborate with partners who can help them answer these complex equations – who can provide an effective route map and deliver it.

The introduction of these schemes has been revolutionary on a global scale and will help put the UK at the forefront of the net zero transition. Our government is trailblazing a pathway and has opened the door for several industries to participate in the transition; and key sectors in the UK economy are now leading by example.

We have a very long road ahead, but these significant milestones are something we as a nation should be proud of.

Ben Simcock is Strategic Development Director for EQUANS UK & Ireland

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