This is no green Budget’ says Schneider Electric boss

A ‘mixed bag’ is perhaps the best way to sum up energy industry reaction to UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget.

In his first Budget, Sunak pledged investments in carbon capture, nuclear fusion and electric vehicle infrastructure.

But Mike Hughes, UK & Ireland President of Schneider Electric, said: “This is by no means a green Budget and doesn’t address some of the key factors that will help us to achieve a net zero economy by 2050.”

While welcoming increased investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and the promise of reforms to make zero and low emission vehicles more affordable, Hughes said “significant investment will be required to the energy grid to support a comprehensive EV charging infrastructure”. 

“Greater consideration needs to be taken about where that investment will come from and if it is to come from business, how the UK will attract it.”

He said that to enable sustainable investment, “businesses need certainty, a clear regulatory frame work, and crucially – incentives. That is exactly how the UK has become a world leader in wind power that now makes up 40 per cent of our country’s electricity balance.”

“Once again, one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions, energy waste, has been overlooked.  We would have liked to see incentives to upgrade commercial and residential building stock, and a greater focus on addressing energy waste.”

Hughes said research carried out by Schneider Electric “conservatively estimates that at least 117 million tonnes of carbon emissions is created each year through energy that is generated but lost or wasted. That’s equivalent to planting almost 2 billion trees as seed and growing them for 10 years, according to the EPA. Planting 30,000 trees is a good start, but it’s barely offsetting the top of the annual emissions iceberg.”

Chris Russell, co-founder of UK renewable energy company Tonik Energy, said the government’s incentives for the purchase of ultra-low emission and zero-emission vehicles “marks a new era of driving”.

“After months of uncertainty, the Chancellor has given fleet managers and company car users confidence to accelerate investment into electric vehicles and green strategies.

“With first year allowances now only available for businesses buying zero-emission vehicles, and zero-emission company van drivers set to benefit from a nil rate of tax from April 2021, the government has initiated a big change which will undoubtedly have a rapid impact on business fleets.”

He added that the Budget “has brought us closer to the UK’s Net Zero target. It is now time for the government to turn its attention to fast and convenient access to power which will be paramount for zero-emission vehicle drivers.

“Whilst the Chancellor’s announcement that £500m will be invested to support the rollout of rapid charging hubs is, of course, a step in the right direction, we are yet to see the government acknowledge that renewable energies are the linchpin to this change.”