Spent today at the Liberal Democrats annual conference in Liverpool and attended a fringe on how to deliver a low carbon future. The speakers were Doug Parr from Greenpeace, Barry Neville from Centrica and more importantly Chris Huhne the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.
Doug pushed the case that even with carbon capture and storage coal and oil need to go quickly and that gas doesn't have a long term future either. Barry made an important point that two thirds of the homes in existence today will still be in existence come 2050 and therefore we need to ensure that any action taken today on improvements is sustainable for the future. Chris was impressive in his passion for pursuing an environmental agenda although he did concede that this view may not be universally shared by some colleagues from the party of his coalition partners. He cited the fact that Bernard Ingham has called him the most dangerous man in Britain today; however he suggested that this should be seen as a badge of honour rather than anything else.
When Chris finished I asked the panel whether the public sector had a key role in delivering on low carbon by providing the infrastructure for things like electric fleet whilst also setting an example through retro fitting public property and generating renewables by solar, tidal, wind, geothermal, biomass etc. I mentioned about APSE working with a number of local authorities to assess whether this can be done on a self financing basis by utilising the feed in tariffs for renewable energy and asked if there was likely to be any invest to save funding that local authorities could tap into?
Chris responded that local government had a key role to play in generating renewables sources of energy and that he was keen for them to utilise the funding available through the green deal strategy. Barry's view was that success in this area could only be achieved by working with local authorities to ensure that the work required to rip out 49 million metres and replace them with 25 million smart metres was co-ordinated and occurred only once.
The conference itself appeared really busy and delegates appeared engaged in the responsibility that comes from being in Government for the first time in generations.