rsz portraitRt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Minister for Energy and Clean Growth (BEIS), Friday 24 July 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has triggered a global health emergency and an unprecedented economic shock affecting the lives of billions of people. Throughout this pandemic the energy sector has been an unsung hero, with an army of workers helping to deal with the changing demands of households and businesses whose daily routines have been turned upside down. 

We now have an opportunity to rebuild a better, greener economy, working with the energy sector to help us reach our all-important climate change commitments.  

In June I co-chaired a conference with the International Energy Agency (IEA) and, with Dr Fatih Birol, made the argument that if countries act together, we will collectively make our economies stronger and greener while tackling the climate emergency head on. 

This could be achieved through mobilising international investment, supporting global supply chains, and increasing economies of scale in clean and flexible energy technologies. 

I’m mindful the health emergency has created new pressures for the energy industry. With many factories and workplaces having been closed, it is no surprise that global electricity demand is set to fall this year by the largest amount since the Great Depression in the 1930s. 

But that is all the more reason to act now. The IEA has found that $1trillion of investment in renewable energy sources over the next three years could create nine million green jobs worldwide. 

The UK is already leading the way on renewables, investing £3 billion into low-carbon innovation and energy storage by 2021. We have provided more support for offshore wind than any other country in the world, incentivising investment through the Contracts for Difference scheme. 

All this means that the UK is now home to the world’s largest offshore wind farms - a great foundation for working towards securing a third of electricity from wind over the next ten years, on our road towards net zero by 2050.

I am proud to say that we are making history in this country. We already have a record 460,000 UK jobs in low-carbon businesses and their supply chains. Coal-fired electricity generation has fallen from 40% in 2012 to just 2% in 2019; and last month Britain went a record-breaking 67 days without coal power.

We are also spending up to £121m on exploring hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels in heating, transport and industry, including investing in Europe’s first large-scale low-carbon hydrogen production plants on Merseyside and in Aberdeenshire. We will set out more detail on ambitions for our energy sector in our Energy White Paper later this year. 

In industry, we are making huge strides in making industrial processes cleaner and less polluting, with the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund opening to applications this month. Just this week we launched the latest phase of an additional £300 million package to champion new technologies like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and pioneering low-carbon processes in industries like cement and glass manufacturing that are the backbone of our industrial heartlands. 

This will help energy-intensive businesses slash their carbon footprint and create green collar jobs across the UK. In total we are pumping at least £800 million into CCS to prevent tonnes of harmful gases being spewed into our atmosphere. 

And it doesn’t stop there. Earlier this month the Chancellor unveiled a £2 billion Green Homes Grant to help families improve the energy performance of their homes and tackle carbon emissions that come from buildings – accounting for almost a quarter of all UK emissions. Vouchers of up to £5,000 will be available and up to £10,000 for some of the poorest families, to make their homes greener - and helping support over 100,000 jobs. 

As hosts of the next United Nations Climate Change conference, the Business Secretary Alok Sharma and I are passionate about raising global commitments to reduce carbon emissions, by urging all countries to invest in a green recovery. 

Together, we can use the opportunity to build back better to unleash the full potential of the Paris Agreement, set Britain and the planet on an accelerated trajectory towards meeting our climate change commitments, and create green jobs in the process – helping our economy get back on track.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP is the UK Minister for Energy and Clean Growth in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. 

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