Mandelson: Trust Politicians, Or Global Warming Wins

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We can’t have Green Grids till we’ve cleared up the MPs’ expenses scandal, says Lord Mandelson, the King of Spin

Business secretary Lord Mandelson has said that unless the UK restores it faith in politicians in the wake of the expenses scandal it will jeopordise chances of successfully rolling out technologies such as green grids which will help combat climate change.

In a speech today at the ‘The Politics of Climate Change’ event at the London School of Economics, Mandelson showed his pedigree as New Labour’s chief architect of spin by linking the current row over expenses, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s beleagured premiership, with the development of green technologies.

“Cynicism and scepticism about politicians and politics in the UK is obviously pretty high. We badly need a core of positive ideas about the future in this country and for me climate change is at the heart of that,” said Mandelson.” Rebuilding political trust in Britain matters for its own sake. But it also matters because politics is the only way that we will be able to legitimately make the huge decisions that need to be made now to face up to challenges like climate change”

Mandelson said the global market for “low carbon goods and services” is worth around £3 trillion a year, and could grow by around 50 percent again by 2015. Around 900,000 people are employed in the sector work in the sector which is predicted to continue growing throughout the downturn, he added.

The technical infrastructure to support the low carbon economy is key, according to the business secretary. “It is also going to mean public sector interventions to ensure that Britain has the necessary infrastructure to support low carbon technologies. That can mean the grid, which is up for serious renewal over the next five years,” he said.

Setting up electricity grids to be able to support hybrid and all electric plug-in vehicles is also important said Mandelson. “It can mean other forms of infrastructure such as the charging networks required to make ultra-low carbon vehicles viable. While these technologies and consumer preferences are still clearly barely off the drawing board, we do need to be careful to ensure that lack of infrastructure does not create a vicious cycle that undermines viable technological solutions,” he said.

Funding will also be made available to the government’s Technology Strategy Board – headed up by IBM engineer Graham Spittle. “In the budget, we created a £750 million fund that will be used to strengthen the Technology Strategy Board and which we will use to make selective investments in, among other things, the resources our companies can use to test and commercialise low carbon technologies,” said Mandelson.

As well as generally upgrading the electricity grid to make it capable of handling energy from renewables such as wind which are variable by nature, and can put strain on the network,  the government  is also investigating ways to improve how consumers and businesses can monitor power usage through so-called smart meter technology.

Smart meters are end-user devices that monitor electricity usage and can be used by home owners and businesses to measure their power usage more accurately. Combined with other technology in electricity distribution systems, smart meters can be uses to create so-called smart grids or green grids and are a major part of government plans to meet carbon emissions targets, with the UK government planning to install smart meters in all homes by 2020.

In a statement released last month, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), said that Great Britain will be first country in the world to deploy smart meters in large numbers.

In preparation for the roll-out, the government has launched a consultation on what information should be available via the meters aimed at consumers which closes in August. The government already issues a consultation aimed at small businesses in July this year.