News – March 2020


Rupert Harrow, Director and Co-Founder of solar specialists, Footprint Zero, comments on the recent budget.
Posted: 12 March 2020


Rishi Sunak, the UK’s new chancellor, recently delivered the first budget for the UK since October 2018. It was also the first budget since the UK committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

Sunak’s budget speech was dominated by the response to the coronavirus outbreak. Nevertheless, it devoted significantly more time to climate measures than recent chancellors. (The most recent 2018 budget speech made no references to climate change at all.)

The Treasury’s budget “red book” (pdf), which provides more detail than the chancellor’s speech, uses the phrase “net-zero” 17 times, with a further 31 mentions of “climate”, comparable to the government’s current buzz-phrase of “levelling up” (19 mentions).

In one example, the red book says: “The transition to a net-zero economy by 2050 will require radical changes in every sector.” It also calls cutting carbon a “major government priority”.

This all bodes well for those of us involved in the infrastructural changes that need to be resolved and implemented for such ambitious targets to be achieved.

However, whilst being seen as a step in the right direction the detail in the delayed National Infrastructure Strategy in the Spring will be a vital road map for how the Government see net zero being achieved.

They say they will “at least double” the size of its “energy innovation programme” to accelerate “the design and production of innovative clean energy technologies”, with the exact budget to be decided at the comprehensive spending review.

The existing energy innovation programme has a budget of £505m covering 2015-2021, which is supporting research on “smart systems” (£70m), energy efficiency and heating (£90m), industrial CCS (£100m), nuclear innovation (£180m), renewables (£15m) and energy entrepreneurs (£50m).
With the Net Zero goals firmly in our country’s plans the Government must make bolder steps in their funding commitments if we are to radically and most vitally, irreversibly redress the damage done by our fossil fuel dependence.

Some good news and an obvious “quick win” is the fundamental review of business rates, which the Solar Trade Association has welcomed as it says they are the “main barrier to the deployment of large rooftop PV”.

Another quick win, spoken by an entrepreneur in the solar sector would be the removal of restrictions for EIS and SEIS investors seeking to be a part of the much needed investment in renewable energy infrastructure.

Corona virus rightly dominated the short term focus and policies in Sunak’s budget address. However I, for one, am looking forward to Net Zero 2050 being as widely known and reported on as Coronavirus (and dare I say Brexit) with the accompanying finances and support to enable the country “to get Net Zero 2050 done!”.


12.03.20 – Government to double the size of its energy innovation programme