In the next of our Greater Manchester Green Summit 2022 preview blogs, we hear from Neil Kirkby, Managing Director of SSE Enterprise, exploring Manchester’s pivotal role in driving the UK to net zero. SSE Energy Solutions is one of the headline sponsors for this year’s Green Summit. You can register for free tickets to the Green Summit here.

You would have thought that keeping the future of the planet at the top of the news agenda was a relatively easy job given the seriousness of our predicament, but it takes work.

At SSE, the UK’s clean energy champion, we want to throw our weight behind events that sharpen the focus of policy makers and industry leaders. To that end, supporting the Green Summit 2022 in Manchester was an easy decision. Any action we can take together today can only benefit all our tomorrows.

For our part, SSE is already ramping up the investment that’s needed. We are commissioning more offshore wind capacity than any other company globally, including the world’s largest offshore wind farm at Dogger Bank, as well as maintaining and upgrading the three electricity networks we own and operate in the UK.

Our net-zero acceleration plan will provide the backbone for decarbonisation through energy, whether that’s with onshore and offshore wind farms, hydro-electric stations, or the grid connections that make it all possible. Having the supplies of renewable energy to meet the rising demand will be crucial.
In Manchester later this year we will be expanding our national EV charging network and we’ll have more news on that in the weeks ahead and we already sponsor the Energy Innovation Agency which is based here.

Underpinning our plan is a commitment to invest £12.5 billion in infrastructure by 2025 – that’s £7 million every day, and a 65% increase on our previous commitments.

Our Decarbonisation Summit in Manchester earlier this year was a great success and the city’s 5-year environment plan with a view to be carbon neutral by 2038 is exactly the sort of ambition all the UK’s major cities should be showing as we strive for net zero by 2050. I applaud Mayor Andy Burnham for his leadership in this.

Only by working together will businesses and local authorities meet their own decarbonisation goals but also contribute to our national targets.

Those targets require a whole-system approach. It’s not enough to look at heating, transport, or generating power in isolation – instead, events such as this give us the opportunity to talk about why we need to generate even more renewable electricity as we move central heating systems away from natural gas and wean our cars, bikes, and vans off petrol and diesel.

Energy efficiency is also an essential part of the plan. Whether it’s at home, at work, or at our public institutions, we all need to use energy more wisely.

Some steps, such as switching to energy-efficient lighting, are relatively easy, but others will require drawing on expertise from within the power industry. Energy-management systems for buildings will help businesses and councils to use less electricity and therefore save money, while planning electricity usage on a city-wide and regional basis will help to add battery storage, EV charging points, and micro-renewables to the network, so that the infrastructure is in place when it’s needed.

It is my hope that our burgeoning relationship with the great city of Manchester will continue to power the drive to net zero. At the end of this summit, we should have ideas that will speed that journey up, ideas that will foster still greater collaboration between industry and policy makers and ambitious but achievable targets set.

Global events have meant that some momentum has been lost in the battle against climate change, it’s up to those of us in a position to effect change to get the wheels moving again.

Manchester is a city of invention and industry. Just as it was once the warehouse of the western world, it can become the lighthouse guiding us towards a greener one.

Neil Kirkby, SSE Enterprise  

SSE Energy is helping the UK accelerate to net zero with Whole System Thinking. That means creating a more resilient and sustainable energy system by investing in, building and connecting localised flexible infrastructure to drive the long-term performance of your energy assets.

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