UK energy transition creating 'worrying' regional divides

The UK risks becoming a two-tier economy as more affluent areas take advantage of the country's shift to a low-carbon energy system while other regions miss out, scientists have warned. 

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In a report published today, researchers from Imperial College London (ICL) reveal how differences in government investment, local policies and average household income are creating regional divides.

Areas like London and Scotland are set to enjoy new growth, cheaper energy bills, electric vehicles and smart appliances thanks to the country's 'energy revolution', while regions like the north of England and East Midlands are likely to fall behind.

“Britain is at risk of creating a two-tier economy, leaving millions of families and businesses less well equipped to enjoy cheaper bills and better health outcomes,” ICL's Dr Iain Staffell, said.

“Our concern is they will not be offered the same opportunities as people living in regions which are modernising their energy infrastructure.”

The report reveals that London receives 45% of national funds for rail electrification, which has led to it producing the lowest levels of emissions from rail in the country.

It is also cheaper, on average, to own an electric car in London than in any other part of the country, with drivers typically travelling shorter distances and being exempt from the capital's congestion charge.

Scotland leads the energy revolution with London thanks to its move away from fossil fuels and uptake of renewables, with the region also enjoying a high number of electric vehicle charging points despite low population density.

Residential homes in leading areas like London, Scotland and the East are also more energy efficient, and more likely to score a high A-C Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating, and have fewer buildings rated F and G.

In comparison, regions like Wales, Yorkshire, the East Midlands and the north of England suffer from particularly low EPC ratings, while fuel poverty in these areas is also high.

The researchers said rising electric heating could result in increasing energy bills in these regions unless homes can be made more energy efficient, or the cost of heating can be reduced, particularly for vulnerable residents.

Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax Group, which commissioned the research, said: “There is an energy revolution underway, but this report uncovers worrying regional divides as we go through that transition.

“We will work with all our partners, including governments, to ensure no one is left behind through the energy revolution.”

 

Image credit | iStock

Author: 

Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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