I just had another fascinating meeting as part of my policy work on the Green Jobs Transition.
The meeting was a bit of a scoping exercise involving the opportunity to talk with our new Deputy Mayor, Councillor Johnson, and with the economic growth director from the North of Tyne Combined Authority. I was keen to find out more about their own ambitions for the Green Jobs of the future, to ensure that my work is aligned.
One thing we were all fundamentally agreed on is that the economic effect of the race to Net Zero is already being felt. Most local people may not yet recognise it, as much is happening behind the scenes, but the Greening of the economy is stimulating new growth. Government commitments to rebalance more of the nation’s energy to offshore wind provide an opportunity for the engineering industries located along the River Tyne. Huge “gigafactories” building the next generation of batteries for vehicles and other uses will be built right on our doorstep. And as I mentioned in my last post on this topic, our homes are all going to need adapting too as we transition away from gas in the same way that we transitioned away from coal.
Readers who have visited the National Trust property “Cragside” up in Northumberland, the old home of Tyneside industrialist William Armstrong, may (rightly) conclude that in terms of our meeting energy needs we are coming full circle. Cragside was a pioneering experiment in not only the use of electricity, but in clean, renewable power – hydroelectric. Armstrong however, was incredibly wealthy, Cragside was a labour of love and money was no object. We need to be more realistic about our budgets.
This was my big take away from the meeting, a point strongly emphasised by the Deputy Mayor: how can we facilitate the energy transition in North Tyneside WITHOUT driving up household bills in the process? Right now Gas is a relatively cheap fuel per Kwh, when compared to elecricity (approx 1:4). That really is a challenge, and one that in the weeks and months ahead I’ll be thinking about a lot. I’m sure there must be solutions out there, and I’m hopeful that we’ll find them.