Professor Phil Hart, Cranfield University’s Director of Energy and Power, gives his reaction to this week’s report from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) suggesting that 65 per cent of Britain’s electricity could be delivered from renewables by 2030.

Professor Hart said: “This is a great piece of forward-thinking analysis. The link between economic recovery and the roll-out of renewables and sustainable technologies is vital. We need to grow the UK economy with industries that have a long-term future, those the UK can plan to lead the world in.

“Some good could come out of the COVID-19 crisis if the Government invests to stimulate the economy out of its current position. Being forward looking with innovation has no incremental cost. What we can’t do is support legacy industries that are in decline. The creation of jobs needs to be real, long-term employment.

Exploiting offshore turbines

“The UK has a world-leading position in offshore wind, with 40% of the operational offshore turbines around our shores. That industry is moving to ever deeper water, with bigger turbines and changes to foundation technologies and eventually a move to far-offshore floating turbines. The UK would be wise to exploit that space even more strongly and build an export business around it – exporting skills, know-how and technology.

Using unused land for solar PV energy

“Solar power is now competitive and relatively cheap. We need to make use of unused Government and private land, brownfield sites and spaces that are not usable for other things and install photovoltaic (PV) panels. A core strength with solar PV is that project sizes can be tiny through to huge. Government support through policy and cutting red-tape for project roll-outs across these scales would be useful for driving innovation in, and the application of, PV right across the country.

“Reinstating support mechanisms for solar PV would give a great stimulus to households, reducing their bills and contributing to net zero. Feed in Tariffs (FiTs) were cut a few years ago, a possibly revised version would be very useful to kick solar PV up a gear. The NIC says ‘implement a new Contract for Difference (CfD) approach’, though that’s potentially not so beneficial to all stakeholders.

“Attaining net zero is a key imperative we absolutely need to hit - global warming is with us regardless of short-term emergencies. Investing where we fix multiple problems, preferably the biggest we have - infrastructure, green economy and sustainable technologies - should be at the forefront of where we spend our borrowed money and national debt.

“The NIC is absolutely right that this is a matter of ambition, and we need to increase ours as a country. Net zero is a tangible, sensible target for 2050 and maybe earlier, so let us not miss the opportunity to use economic recovery to help the UK meet it, and forge a position for the UK as the leader in sustainable and renewable tech.

“The right investment strategy could put the UK in a great long-term position as an exporter and growth economy.”

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.