Public sector first, comes at a cost but well worth the investment.

9th Oct 2023


Back in a former life, in 2007, I was proud that a new primary school building was opened in Redhill, Worcester.

It was funded under the government’s ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme and won awards for its green credentials – including a Ground Source Heat Pump. For the record, it was my kids’ school, so I had witnessed the whole construction phase, including the deep boreholes required for the GSHP.

Little did I know then, just how embroiled I would become in the world of decarbonised heating systems. But here lies a valuable lesson from which I hope we can still learn.

Back in 2011, a certain William Jefferson Clinton suggested that decarbonisation should be kick started in the public sector. In his book ‘Back to Work’, he saw the opportunity, post the global banking crisis, to invest to get the US economy moving again. Today, post COVID and the cost-of-living crisis, we face a similar challenge but more pressing as we have moved closer to our net zero deadline.

So why aren’t we prioritising public buildings for net zero action?

Only recently has the government issued guidance on placing solar farms on buildings such as warehouses, rather than in fields. We have local authorities claiming a climate emergency; wanting to achieve net zero by 2025 while school buildings, office blocks, car parks all have the space to house solar but don’t. How many libraries and sports centres could have installed GSHPs in the 16 years since I first saw one in action?

Now local government will scream their response, cash. And there’s no denying it is lacking. But public sector investment that reduces energy bills (and carbon too) is exactly what public funding should deliver. That way, operational or running costs will be lower in the future, paving the way for better or expanded public services.

And here’s the other key win. We the taxpayer, the public, the consumer get to see decarbonisation in action, without the private disruption. We are persuaded, encouraged and then commit to action ourselves.

It may now be too late, I don’t know, but what about a net zero re-set that focuses on this approach because the current path seems impenetrable.

Mike Foster

EUA's Chief Executive


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