Energy Secretary Huhne Promises ‘New Economy’

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The UK government’s budget and green measures will get us through a new industrial revolution, says energy secretary Chris Huhne

The UK is poised to move to a new low-carbon economy, and technology is crucial to get us there, according to the secretary for energy and climate change, Chris Huhne.

A “green deal” will enable people to make their homes more energy-efficient, a carbon price will encourage businesses to use less energy, and a green investment bank proposed by the previous government will enable the new economy to emerge, he said, at a House of Commons reception and in parliamentary discussion of this year’s budget

What’s in it for business?

Britain has promised to reduce carbon emssions by 20 percent before 2020, and the new government has increased that figure by ten percent, while promising that its departments will cut their emissions by ten percent this year.

Much of the work will happen on the domestic front, as housing creates a large part of the country’s carbon footprint – so Huhne’s department’s “flagship” bill will allow measures to help people “pay as they save” while retrofitting energy saving measures to their homes, Huhne said.

The department is considering ways to extend this green deal to business premises as well, he told the evening reception – a move that might allow the deal to include savings produced by smart building controls managed by IT – “but I am making no promises”.

“Most of the houses we will be living in in 2050 have already been built,” he said. “We need retrofitting if we are to meet our target of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.” And the green deal will be a big deal, he said, because 14 million homes need insulated: at £6500 per house, that could mean a total investment of £90 billion.

And green technologies will provide growth towards a new ecoonomy he said, explaining that the last recession was followed in the 1930s by “one of Britain’s fastest periods of growth, with the development of new electrical appliances and the suburbs round our cities”.

Huhne knows IT

Green IT experts in the audience pointed to their role in making buildings more energy-efficient, and in providing the technologies that can manage the use switchover, and spoke approvingly of Huhne, who has shown an awareness of technology issues while in opposition for the Liberal Democrats.

Huhne opposed the Labour governments ID card scheme, which has been scrapped by the coalition. He also spoke against the extradition of hacker Gary McKinnon to the US. This has now been delayed but may still go ahead.

“The challenge now is we need green industry to replace our whole economy,” said Huhne, in a change to renewable energy that will be as “fundamental” as the change from water power to steam, gas and electricity in the different phases of the industrial revolution.

A high price for carbon will be important to drive this, he said, and the government will be working the proposal for a green investment bank, to provide funding for necessary developments.

During the commons debate, he responded to criticism that the budget had no green taxes or other new sustainability measures, by pointing out that “this was an emergency budget.

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