Bristol should be at the forefront of the renewable energy revolution

September 28 2018

With the sunny, barbecue-friendly summer we’ve had, you’d be forgiven if you missed a report published by Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee last month.

The cross-party group of MPs warned that climate change could cause heat-related deaths to treble by 2050 and urged the government to do much more to tackle the effects of heatwaves – particularly on older, more vulnerable people. 

 With the Met Office suggesting that UK summer temperatures could regularly reach 38.5°C by the 2040s, to say nothing of other countries, this is a serious concern. Changing course on climate change is one of the most urgent challenges we face as a world. 

 The bottom line is we cannot continue to depend on fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. As these fuels become harder to extract, we are forced to rely on environmentally risky technology such as hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’. It is crucial that we generate energy in a way that’s clean and sustainable.

I repeatedly challenge the government on the low priority it gives to addressing climate change. So I was very disappointed when the government announced it was dropping investment in the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, which could have generated enough electricity for 150,000 homes. 

Thankfully, other renewable technologies are developing fast. I recently travelled to Blyth on the Northumbrian coast to visit the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult. This remarkable facility acts as a hub for the development of new technology to support offshore renewable energy, including the world’s biggest wind turbine blades, which can harvest even more electricity from our wind-battered coastline. 

There’s a clear moral case for investment in renewable energy technology. But there’s also an economic argument. For example, in 2017 there were 126,000 people working in renewable energy in the UK. This could increase with new technologies – ORE Catapult forecasts that by 2040 there could be 23,000 UK jobs related to marine energy alone.

This has implications much closer to home. Several companies in Bristol and many researchers at Bristol University are working on renewable energy. The Bristol Channel is one of the world’s best sites for tidal power. I want Bristol to continue to play a global role in this new industrial revolution in low-carbon energy. 

However, all this innovation requires investment, infrastructure and – crucially – government support. This government has given warm words to investment in green energy in their Industrial Strategy, but their recent actions tell a different story. 

I was proud to be re-elected last year on a Labour manifesto that pledged to commit to renewable energy projects. As an MP, I’ll continue to campaign on this. There are clear opportunities for Bristol, and the UK, in a cleaner, greener future.