Blue skies over Leeds, green future for all?

By Gary Hartley

As a child of Leeds, I’m naturally inclined to suggest that we’re a forward-thinking, creative and insightful bunch. What’s more, in terms of the green economy, we seem to be well and truly delivering on the boast. I am very pleased to report that our academics are leading the way in terms of proving the worth of a country-wide green makeover.

I’m sure readers of this blog will be more than familiar with us extolling the benefits of green living at a personal and home-by-home level – but there’s clearly a bigger case to be made.

As the debate rumbles on about the cost of ‘green policies’ to our energy bills, we need to be sure that changes to people’s homes will prove economical, both in terms of delivering on the bill-reduction front, and providing wider net benefit.

This is exactly what the brainy Leeds folk from the Centre for Low Carbon futures have been looking at. And they’ve made some heartening conclusions, alongside some big home truths. The main part of the latter is the finding that around 10 per cent leaves the local economy every year through payment of the energy bill – and, as I’m sure it will come as little surprise to most, this is set to rise.

But on the other hand, investing 1 per cent of GDP for 10 years would typically lead to cuts in the energy bill worth 1.6 per cent of GDP every single year – not to mention creating and sustaining jobs, improving energy security, cutting carbon and all those other benefits. Now that’s value for money.

To elaborate somewhat, I give you the lead author of the study, Professor Andy Gouldson:

‘The business case for major scale investments in energy and carbon management is very strong. If local government can underwrite early stage investments, as is happening in some places, then major flows of private sector investment can be secured. Investments can come from institutional investors such as pension funds, or in the near future through the Green Deal, the Green Investment Bank or Energy Company Obligations. The direct economic reasons for securing investments from sources like these are strong enough – but the wider economic, social and environmental benefits make the business case even more compelling.’

We’re seeing the sustainable progress every day that clearly illustrates the common-sense driving forces that are confirmed in this latest study. There’s scores of local schemes by councils, housing associations and private companies out there now, delivering carbon savings and tackling fuel poverty – and we’re firm believers in the power of collaboration to get things done.

The results of this study were announced to the movers and shakers of Leeds on 9 January, and to Parliament three days are later. Prepare for a green revolution (hopefully): signed, sealed and delivered from West Yorkshire.