Alongside a Budget that focused heavily on the immediate actions required to return to growth and respond to the economic impacts of Covid-19, the Government published Build Back Better, its plan for growth, a new economic strategy for the post-Brexit, post-pandemic world with technology, net zero and innovation at its heart.
Autumn’s Comprehensive Spending Review will still be significant in putting this to work longer term, but Build Back Better makes clear that today’s Budget, and recent announcements such as the £800m ARIA and the Green Industrial Revolution, are part of a bigger picture for the Government. Its three pillars are infrastructure, skills and innovation. New strategies expected over the next year, such as a Hydrogen Strategy, Innovation Strategy, a Transport Decarbonisation Strategy, and Digital Strategy, will all connect back to Build Back Better.
It aims to build a connecting economic narrative for the future of the UK, with leadership in science and innovation, and the transition to net zero, all creating transformative changes in productivity and quality of life in regions across the country.
Our highlights included:
- The new Future Fund: Breakthrough, a £375m public-private fund to invest in promising, R&D-intensive companies ready to scale up with equity rounds of over £20m, showing Government’s seriousness about a greater appetite for risk and supporting companies directly.
- The launch of the new National Infrastructure Bank, expected to deliver £12bn in public and sector project investment from Spring onwards and drive forward new net zero projects.
- Freeports, eight new economic zones spread across nearly every region, with special regulatory, development and taxation rules to incentivise high-tech investment.
- Several commitments on green finance, including a change to the Bank of England’s remit to include environmental sustainability, and new green savings products and bonds.
Levelling up remains a key focus. Alongside freeports, the location of the new National Infrastructure Bank in Leeds and the Treasury’s new Darlington hub make that abundantly clear.
Undoubtedly, the focus today will be on measures taken by the Chancellor to safeguard the economy as the UK travels on the roadmap towards the end of COVID-19 restrictions. But today’s Build Back Better plan demonstrates that when the Conservatives go to the electorate at the end of this Parliament, they will be expecting to do so having established a more productive economy that leads in innovative industries, and is making strides towards a lower carbon energy system.
Strategic communications and insights consultancy Madano today announced that it has been chosen by Ceres Power for an integrated communications brief, advising the fuel cell technology firm on external communications, public affairs, digital and social media.
Ceres Power is an innovative fuel cell and engineering company based in Horsham, U.K., aiming to bring cleaner and cheaper energy to businesses, homes and vehicles. Last year, the company announced partnerships with Doosan, Bosch and AVL which will significantly scale-up the deployment of its solid oxide fuel cell technology in key markets around the world.
Madano will be working with Ceres Power to improve awareness among key stakeholders in the media, government and beyond of the company’s recent impressive progress and the contribution it can make towards achieving net-zero goals.
Michael Evans, Managing Partner, Madano, commented: “This is the latest in a series of exciting integrated comms briefs landed by our energy and environment practice, reflecting Madano’s desire to support companies who are shaping the future. Ceres Power is a groundbreaking energy technology company whose purpose dovetails with one of the consultancy’s main objectives – to sustain a clean, green planet by ensuring there is clean energy available throughout the world.”
Phil Caldwell, CEO, Ceres Power, added: “The growth opportunities for our business in 2021 are clear. Many countries have placed decarbonisation at the centre of their plans for economic recovery after COVID-19, and we’ve seen significant investment in hydrogen and industrial decarbonisation announced in Germany, South Korea, Japan and the UK, to name a few. Our partnership with Madano will help us to raise awareness among key audiences of the role our SteelCell® technology can play in driving decarbonisation forward globally.”
Madano is committed to building a better world through intelligent and creative communications. We work with clients who are seeking to solve some of the world’s major challenges through science, technology and engineering, helping them tell their story, make the right connections, change attitudes and influence behaviours. Established in 2004, Madano is an AVENIR GLOBAL company.
*Story first published on PR Week.
Expectations across the energy sector were high yesterday, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s gave his “winds of change” vision for the energy sector by committing the Government to the modest target of increasing offshore wind power capacity from 30 GW to 40 GW, by 2030. He breezily claimed that this source of low carbon energy could generate enough electricity to power all the UK’s homes within a decade.
Alongside this pledge, the Prime Minister promised £160m to upgrade ports and infrastructure for building turbines and boosting offshore wind capacity, which he claimed will create 2,000 jobs in construction and support 60,000 more. We will, according to the Prime Minister, see 1 GW of floating wind turbines hove into view by 2030, too.
The Prime Minister’s backing for offshore wind is not a major surprise in and of itself, given the Government’s focus on tackling climate change in much of its messaging. And given the scale of investment announced yesterday is modest by international standards, industry will be looking for much more in the Government’s 10-point “Build Back Greener” plan if the UK is to establish itself as the ‘Saudi Arabia’ of wind power and renewable energy more broadly.
The Prime Minister’s lofty assertion that offshore wind, alone, can solve a large part of the energy question should be taken with a large pinch of sea salt or viewed as a symptom of his broad brush, oratorical style. His claim that offshore wind could power all the UK’s homes by 2030 omitted to mention that homes account for only about a third of power use. The Government is well aware that wind is only one piece of the testing net zero puzzle and that other low carbon energy sources, such as solar and nuclear power, will need support to scale up and meet the needs of wider energy challenge.
While the Prime Minister’s press release did take the opportunity to breathe fresh life into the Government’s plans for renewables by indicating that the Government will set a 2021 target to “double the capacity of renewable energy in the next Contracts for Difference auction,” he provided little detail on its proposals for solar, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, energy efficiency or nuclear power.
Still, we can be confident that this announcement is the first stage of the “Build Back Greener” plan for a green industrial revolution from the Government, with No 10 promising further, concrete details later this year to “accelerate our progress towards net zero emissions by 2050.” There are conflicting reports on the date that this plan will be published, with both late October and late November suggested.
The long-delayed Energy White Paper is also reportedly set to be published this month. The paper will outline the Government’s approach to delivering its net zero target and will hopefully clear the air on various issues, such as large-scale nuclear, and provide confidence to the renewables sector that has weathered COVID-19 admirably and produced record-breaking levels of low-carbon energy.
To our mind, what is most notable from this policy announcement is not its content but the fact that a commitment to offshore wind is the headline announcement of a Prime Minister at the Conservative Party Conference, during a time of public health and economic crisis.
Whatever the rationale behind this decision, it confirms that addressing climate change has much greater importance for this Government compared to recent predecessors.
Written by James Watson, Madano.
After the downturn comes the recovery. At least that’s the theory of how things should pass.
Over the past few months, Government and industry have spoken out on the urgent need for a green recovery based on investment, jobs and growth in the UK’s burgeoning low-carbon sector.
The message has been delivered and Government has sought to get on the front foot by bringing leading industry players around the virtual roundtable in recent weeks to determine what the green recovery should look like and the support mechanisms that need to go into it.
The wider context of the green recovery extends further than a reflex response to the post-COVID-19 world as the Government has promised to level up Britain’s regions, increase productivity, deliver on the many Brexit promises and ultimately create a world-beating net zero economy by 2050.
But like the “57 varieties of Heinz” slogan, green recoveries come in various shapes and sizes.
A case of history repeating?
For seasoned observers, it feels like we’ve been here before, most notably in 2008-2010 when governments first saw the opportunities of renewable energy markets and provided bazooka-like fiscal stimuluses.
The Obama administration provided US$90 billion to promote clean energy through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This led to a fundamental global restructuring of how renewable energy was financed and developed.
Create the conditions and investment for a market to develop and the ‘invisible hand’ will work its magic, or so the theory goes.
Ten or so years on, it could be argued that this approach has worked as many renewable forms of energy, such as offshore wind and solar, have become developed industries and are moving to a model where they no longer need government support (i.e. “zero-subsidy”).
However, some have argued that the UK fluffed its lines over a decade ago by not being ambitious enough. Nick Molho, Executive Director at the Aldersgate Group, was quoted recently in Business Green: “The UK did not seize the opportunity to transform its economy for the better when it responded to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.”
With hindsight, it’s easy to conclude that Government failed to deliver a long-term plan for low-carbon technologies to transform the economy.
Now Government has bought into the idea that low-carbon infrastructure and growing industries, such as hydrogen, electric vehicles and retrofitting our building stock, can create jobs and provide a long-term low-carbon economy.
Pressure is also building from a cross-party selection of MPs who, just this week, urged Government to accelerate the transition to net zero to “get the UK on track”.
The idea of a “green industrial revolution” has gained further urgency given the sharpest economic contraction of modern times, as well as rapid global climate change.
As Michael Liebreich of Bloomberg NEF highlighted, we need to remove carbon from our economy at a rate three to seven per cent faster per year than we have been doing in order to meet our Paris commitments.
The post-COVID-19 world has brought a new reality. Months of lockdown have provided obvious benefits. Fewer planes, trains and cars mean cleaner air in our cities. Biodiversity has flourished in many places across the world as humans have retreated. A consensus is emerging for these positive changes to continue.
Importantly, investment continues to pour into renewables and most analysts expect this to carry on, despite the COVID19 pandemic. While the energy sector has been hit hard by COVID-19, the renewables sector is showing remarkable signs of resilience.
How do companies and organisations shape the green recovery?
With Government and MPs making weekly statements about the green recovery, and with public acceptance of renewable energy higher than ever, companies in the energy and environment space will never have a better opportunity to push forward the green agenda.
Government is listening, ministers are keen to deliver, MPs are engaged, and the electorate wants to see the creation of new jobs and industries
The awarding of new funding is being accelerated and made available to companies with new innovations and technologies that progress the low-carbon transition, such as sucking CO² out of the air.
Communications are central to this.
Companies will need to show commitment to the green recovery, showing that they understand the Government’s agenda with a clear strategy and vision, impactful messaging and narrative, and a roadmap on how they are going to deliver, as well as a clear recommendation or ‘ask’ of Government.
One clear lesson is to be bold. Companies can draw on the recent precedent of lockdown lobbying from Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford. His free school meals campaign, as my colleague Evan Byrne noted in his excellent blog, was successful because it delivered a simple but uncompromising ‘ask’ to Government.
Know who the key stakeholders are. The shifting sands of the post-COVID-19 world mean that the stakeholders that a company or organisation might have communicated with in the past might not be the same ones who are shaping the green recovery. Take some time to map the stakeholder landscape and find out who the influential stakeholders really are.
And don’t forget to engage the public on this journey. They are also important stakeholders. They influence the influencers.
More broadly, the green recovery isn’t just a reaction to the post-COVID-19 world, it’s an opportunity to commit your business or organisation to creating a better world – a net-zero world. The promise of new jobs is an exciting one.
Those companies that have committed to net zero, with tangible goals and attainable milestones, have been well received by media. Outlandish net-zero commitments will likely be met with scepticism and negativity, just as “greenwashing” has been called out and rejected in the past. The public will want to see proof of progress as well as sincerity.
There is surely no better time to cement the goal of net zero in the public consciousness than now as people demand greater action to protect the environment, with many inspired by the actions of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.
With COP26 taking place in Glasgow late next year, it is also an opportunity for companies and organisations to get a head start on their competitors, positioning themselves prominently in an increasingly crowded space. There’s a business imperative to being ahead of the game on net zero.
The signs are there that, this time, the green recovery will be a defining pillar of the UK and other countries’ post-industrial development. The scale of the economic and climate crisis dictates this.
But this will only happen if leading companies and organisations understand the new reality and seize the opportunities that it has provided them.
Madano advises clients in the energy and infrastructure sectors adapting to the impacts of COVID-19 and transitioning to lower carbon operating models. If you’re interested in learning more, please drop me a line directly at: [email protected]om. You can also follow Madano on Twitter.