As the UK Prime Minister promises the initial peak of Coronavirus may have passed, we review economic and efficiency developments amid these unprecedented times.
UK lockdown exit
Boris Johnson has pledged a lockdown exit plan, saying the UK has passed its Coronavirus peak. Bloomberg writes that in his first press conference since recovering from Covid-19, Johnson promised to set out details on how businesses can get back to work, suggesting that people will be encouraged to wear face masks as the restrictions are lifted.
The Prime Minister’s words show the government is preparing the pathway for the swathes of the economy that have been shuttered to begin operating again, amid concern that millions of people are facing the loss of their jobs and companies are collapsing.
“I will be setting out a comprehensive plan next week to explain first how we get our economy moving, how we can get our children back to school, back into childcare, second, and thirdly how we can travel to work and how we can make life in the workplace safer,” Johnson said. “In short, how we can continue to suppress the disease and at the same time restart the economy.”
Kevin Cox, Managing Director, Energys, comments: “A challenging balance must be struck. No one wants to push a return to work too early. Yet many reports suggest shuttering the economy for too long brings damaging health impacts of their own, via stress or income deprivation, plus the impacts on the low carbon sector which needs to maintain its exponential growth to help deliver a Zero Carbon UK.
“We will watch the Prime Minister’s strategy with keen eyes and of course implement everything we need to within Energys and our operations.”
Britain breaks record for coal-free power generation
In telling indications of progress towards low carbon despite the virus, The Guardian reports that Britain has gone without coal-fired power generation for its longest stretch since the Industrial Revolution, breaking the existing record of 18 consecutive days this morning [April 28, 2020].
The lockdown also caused the UK’s electricity demand to fall to record lows because schools, shops, factories and restaurants have closed.
Demand was forecast to fall almost a fifth below the usual levels in April, according to the data. The lower overall demand for electricity means low-carbon energy sources are able to make up a greater proportion of the energy system than usual.
“These numbers prove why the Prime Minister’s plans to open up the economy are needed,” says Kevin Cox. “We are making such wonderful progress towards decarbonising the UK. We must balance safety, but we need to get back to work to continue making our country a more environmentally sound place to live, offering a world-leading example.”
Energy efficiency and the recovery of the UK economy post COVID-19
Blogging for www.current-news.co.uk, a consultant to local authority energy projects writes: ‘So the economy desperately needs an avenue that will lead to a rapid bounce back. What characteristics would be required of such an avenue?
‘These would include: the creation of new and sustainable jobs to replace those lost; development of valuable skills and experience that will add value in the future; contribution to wider Government policy; reductions in costs to one aspect or another of the economy; more people paying tax and National Insurance to help boost the Treasury’s coffers; something that would garner strong public support.
‘Where can such an avenue be found? Well, it just might be that the green agenda offers just such a path: energy efficiency.’
He concludes: ‘What better way of getting money back into the Treasury than by having more people in work, doing worthwhile jobs that require sustainable skills at both the modest and sophisticated end of the spectrum, contributing to one of the most important priorities in the country today.
‘A significant programme of energy efficiency works would meet all of those goals and help the country get back on its feet at the same time.’
UK economy suffers
Finally this month, we would be remiss to ignore the dreadful signals regarding the national economy. The Guardian writes that Britain’s economy is likely to lose out on £800bn of income over the next 10 years as the lockdown and a spike in unemployment leave deep scars on the private sector.
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) said it expected the economy to bounce back next year, but not to its previous level and with the unemployment rate still above 5% after hitting 10.5% this year.
A second peak in the coronavirus outbreak or a prolonged shutdown into the summer would add between a third and a half more to the loss of income this year, NIESR added. In its twice-yearly report, the thinktank said the efforts of the government to limit the economic impact of Covid-19 with loans, grants and guarantees to thousands of businesses would send public sector debt to 95% of GDP next year, 12 percentage points above its current level.
“We must seek to find a path through this massively challenging economic environment,” comments Kevin Cox. “No one can play down the difficulties ahead. Yet the low carbon sector is well placed to aid a national recovery.
“Our offerings can help the releveraging of our economy to something more sustainable and fit for future purpose, both economically and environmentally. If anything, let us take this as an opportunity to permanently reconfigure our economy for the better.”