Green shoots of recovery

Can your post-coronavirus recovery plan help tackle climate change?

Our keyword phrase book, featuring coronavirus, pandemic, unprecedented and the ‘new normal’, has a most welcome addition – economic recovery. As it appears we will overcome this crisis the next phase for all of us to consider is coronavirus recovery, a return to normal and a decision on what we might want the future to look like.

Climate change persists and businesses have a role to play in tackling this. Even if the short-term priority is recovery of operations, it is important to keep an eye on sustainability too. With careful planning, a green recovery can be used to stimulate the economy and tackle the climate change emergency. Research undertaken by Make UK and E.ON before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic revealed 30% of manufacturers were investing in energy efficiency measures with 40% reporting an increase in profits as a result.

If there is one positive to lockdown it was in the environmental benefits it brought. Seeing images of cities clear of smog, less air pollution and noticing clearer air in our communities. Realising the country’s power supply went coal-free for two months - the longest period of time since the industrial revolution. This environmental impact has come about through a combination of increased renewable energy sources and reduced demand. But lower CO2 emissions due to disruption across travel, work and industry are a short-term benefit. We simply cannot expect this reduction in air pollution to continue without building our climate goals into a green recovery. Economic growth needs to come hand in hand with environmental sustainability. 

There is much we can all do post-coronavirus to tackle climate change and benefit the environment. As we hope to move out of one crisis, the opportunity is there to really tackle another. 

Firstly, Government must demonstrate that progress towards a future with cleaner air remains paramount in its post-coronavirus strategy and stimulus package. This means increased incentives for businesses to improve their sustainability, by investing in clean low-carbon technology and energy efficiency.

Businesses, too, cannot afford to renege on pledges to improve their sustainability, lower their environmental impact and advance efforts towards net-zero. They must meet customers’ growing demand for sustainable operations, less air pollution and recognise investment in low-carbon clean energy and energy efficiency makes business as well as environmental sense.

Energy savings and investment in greater efficiency can play a vital role in rebuilding bottom lines and serving as businesses' contribution to tackling climate change as they work on recovery plans and look to get back on their feet. And this journey can begin with simple measures such as swapping fluorescent tubes for LEDs and better managing energy consumption through behavioural as well as technological means. It might mean looking into shifting to a fleet of electric vehicles or considering a renewable energy supply forms part of an economic recovery strategy. 

The collective effort of small businesses to improve their sustainability has the potential to save millions of pounds in energy costs and reduce millions of tonnes of CO2 emissions. For cities considering their post-coronavirus recovery plan and energy strategy the potential environmental impact is far greater.  

 

At a community scale, one such example is investment in low-carbon heat networks. These can contribute to a net-zero strategy while providing efficient and cost-effective ways to keep homes and businesses comfortable.

At the individual business level, now might be time to ditch fossil fuels and investigate wind or solar, which when supported by battery storage lets you retain any excess power produced on site for a back-up energy supply, making your operations more resilient. Wind and solar are renewable sources of energy, so if you’ve a large roof or spare land to accommodate the kit, either is a good way to reduce energy bills, reliance on fossil fuels and carbon footprint. Similarly, heat pump technologies use renewable energy and are one of the most sustainable and cost-efficient ways of meeting a business’ heating and cooling needs while reducing CO2 emissions.

We now stand at a critical juncture, as we hope to quickly and safely overcome the coronavirus crisis. As we move into a phase of economic recovery and you plan to rebuild your business and consider future growth, keep in mind your environmental sustainability too. Let's make our coronavirus recovery a green recovery. 

Written by John Walsh

John Walsh has more than 20 years’ experience across the energy industry and currently leads a team of Strategic Account Managers in E.ON’s Business and Community Solutions division, building long term relationships with large industrial and corporate customers to help them improve their energy efficiency and stay competitive. John’s qualifications include Postgraduate Diplomas in Marketing from the University of Salford and in Management Principles from the JHA Academy.