A step change on renewables is required

2 min read

The attack on Ukraine has highlighted how much oil and gas we import from Russia and why it’s time that we truly embrace renewables.

With the demand for electricity set to double by 2050 most of the UK’s energy will need to be supplied from renewable sources if it is to meet its net-zero targets.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics, however, have shown that the UK’s low-carbon and renewable energy economy isn’t growing and since 2014 has lost thousands of jobs while the number of green businesses operating in the UK has fallen by 13%.

In 2020 Boris Johnson talked about creating 250,000 green jobs across the country and unveiled a 10-point plan, as part of a wider government drive to hit net zero and deliver a post-pandemic green recovery.

Today, there is a real urgency in delivering on that plan especially after what are witnessing in the Ukraine which has surely added even more urgency to weaning the UK, as well as the rest of Europe, in particular Germany and Italy, off oil and gas supplied by Russia.

While Russia’s invasion or Ukraine is not a “war for oil and gas” it is a war that is funded by Europe’s need for it.

Russia has threatened to cut off supplies to Europe and seems to believe that Europe and the US won’t curtail imports because of the economic cost.

Germany’s decision to stop the planned Nordstream 2 pipeline should be welcomed, but as Putin’s predecessor Dmitry Medvedev warned Europeans may soon see the cost of gas soar. The US is also said to be wary of imposing sanctions that could slow the flow of Russian oil and gas, worried at the impact that could have on its citizens and economy.

So, while renewable energy should be seen as playing a critical role in combating climate change and ensuring that poor air quality no longer kills 9 million people each year, it could also be used as a tool to undermine Putin by destroying his only real source of foreign income – oil and gas accounts for 60 percent of Russian exports.

Investment in renewables is growing and in the past ten years costs, whether that’s solar or wind power, have tumbled.

Technology is being developed at pace, we just need the industrial capability to deliver the wind turbines and the solar panels we need. In previous crises manufacturing capacity was turned over to manufacturing weapons in a matter of months, so it’s possible.

Factories could be retooled and key commodities that are currently supplied from Russia, sourced elsewhere or research undertaken into finding substitutes.

Europe’s economy could be run on solar and wind power, the technology is there it just needs to be scaled up quickly.