Energetic new approaches to stimulating Green Growth in West Midlands

I was delighted to attend a well attended Energy Capital Conference at University of Birmingham recently as part of my campaign for the election of the West Midlands Metro Mayor.

Through work I did at Birmingham City University I got involved with manufacturers first of electric vehicles and then driverless cars. It involved building collaborations and different business models required to lift us into a different future that we can hardly imagine at the moment, a future that’s clean, green and a pleasure to live in.

I see this area as an area we can ‘own’ and take leadership. The Mayor’s role for me is about building on our transport and energy credentials. The link between energy generation and connectivity has never been more vital. The two go hand-in-hand and we need to own and develop these in tandem.

As one of my colleagues has observed:

Electronics in a typical family car account for more than 50% of its value. There are no fewer than 100 microprocessors in the average car today, around 15 million lines of code running a luxury car. There are more sensors and computing power in a midsize car than the Apollo space craft. Additional electronic systems are being introduced with the development of electric and hybrid vehicles, such as battery management, electric motor drives and energy recovery systems.

We have a real chance to lead in production of electric vehicles, in driverless vehicles, in local energy, battery power and renewables production. Worldwide over 1.2m EVs were sold last year however, international climate targets anticipate 20m EVs by 2020 and 100m by 2030.

The West Midlands needs to ensure we have our share of this market. Jaguar Land Rover will be investing £650m in EVs and have been looking for government to invest £450m in infrastructure. It could mean as many as 100k new jobs directly and through the supply chain.

I am proposing £1bn to stimulate further long term investment, to support these supply chains and drive forward public and private partnerships. So we can create our future, made here, by us for us.

Our trade with the EU is a vital part of the future success of our region. Access to the single market is vital for our many manufacturers – right across the West Midlands. After Brexit companies growing smart clean and distributed energy businesses will still want –need – to freely trade with EU member nations.

The Secretary of State for Environment, Rural Affairs and Food Andrea Leadsom recently confirmed that the majority of EU environmental legislation will be transferred across into UK law in the immediate aftermath of Brexit. However uncertainty looms for around a third of green regulations, which Leadsom admitted “won’t be easy to transpose.”

Outside the EU, there will be much greater probability of legislative change in the UK and a danger that investors will be wary of potentially higher risks. As Caroline Lucas, the Green MP has said “The relative attractiveness of the UK as a place for green investment is in danger of being further reduced.”

Last week the government announced which industries it wished to protect during the negotiations over Brexit. Support, protection and encouragement for companies involved in the energy and environmental sectors were low down on that list. These sectors may not seem a high priority for this Conservative government, but it is for the thousands of people who depend on it for their livelihoods.

I want to use the Mayor’s powers, and our ingenuity, our generosity to build our future, by us for us. Now is a pivotal moment. Now it’s our turn, and our voice must be heard.

* Beverley Nielsen is the Liberal Democrat candidate for West Midlands Metro Mayor

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