Manufacturers will have to make a monumental shift to greener fuels and more sustainable production models as part of the UK’s plans for a net zero economy by 2050.
The UK’s recently-announced Net Zero Strategy brings together the government’s overarching vision for decarbonising the economy and preparing for a lower carbon future.
The strategy was published ahead of COP26, the UN climate summit being held in Glasgow between 1-12 November, which will determine global efforts to tackle the climate emergency over the next decade.
The manufacturing sector currently accounts for around 15 per cent of the UK’s carbon emissions. Industry will be expected to make wide-ranging changes through the ‘Green Industrial Revolution’, particularly around the way energy is produced and used.
Hydrogen, alternative fuels and CCUS
Energy-intensive industries will be encouraged to switch from fossil fuels like gas and oil for powering industrial processes to lower carbon alternatives such as hydrogen or electricity.
Hydrogen is not yet a major fuel in the UK, but production is set to scale-up significantly over this decade through large-scale industrial clusters, one of which will be the Hynet project in the North West. A host of industry leaders in the region - including Kellogg’s, Jaguar Land Rover, PepsiCo, Kraft-Heinz and Pilkington Glass - have already agreed to use hydrogen from Hynet to decarbonise their operations.
Hynet is also an example of carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS), an emerging industry that plays a key role in the government’s plan and will receive over £1 billion in funding.
Other examples of fuel switching projects already underway in the North West include Glass Futures in St Helens, which is working with the region’s glass manufacturers to test a range of alternative fuels for glass furnaces.
Electrification of vehicles
Businesses will have to replace their fossil fuel powered vehicles with ultra-low emission or electric models over the coming years. The sale of diesel and petrol cars will be phased out by 2030, vans by 2035 and HGVs between 2035-2040.
The government has announced new funding of £620 million to incentivise electric vehicle uptake and rollout charging infrastructure. An additional £350 million will be invested in the electrification of vehicle manufacturing, presenting a significant opportunity for the UK supply chain.
Electrification of heating
All new heating in workplaces will have to be ‘low carbon’ by 2035, which means an end to conventional gas boilers. This will be encouraged by shifting the burden of energy levies paid on electricity and gas bills during the 2020s, making gas increasingly more expensive relative to electricity.
Energy and resource efficiency
The most energy intensive industries are being supported to reduce energy use through a £315 million Industrial energy Transformation Fund (OETF). A support scheme for smaller energy users is due to be consulted on soon.
The government is also exploring policies and proposals to improve resource efficiency - keeping products and materials in circulation for longer by way of reuse, repair, remanufacture and recycling, as well as reducing material usage.
Commenting on the Net Zero Strategy, Stephen Phipson, CEO of Make UK, said:
“The plans are a very positive step on the journey to net zero by 2050, with practical support to help businesses transition to green and clean production processes.
The creation of hydrogen clusters in Britain’s industrial heartlands puts our manufacturing powerhouse at the centre of innovation and will enable companies to make the switch away from fossil fuels at greater speed. It will be vital to produce enough hydrogen supply to feed not just the industrial clusters but all the manufacturers across the country.”
Manufacturers able to demonstrate greener credentials and a lower carbon footprint than their competitors are set to benefit most from the transition to net zero. According to recent research by Make UK and Sage, more than three quarters (77 per cent) of manufacturers intend to set a net zero target for their business within the next 24 months.
Greater Manchester manufacturers can access fully-funded support to help them on their journey to net zero through the Hub’s online Journey to Net Zero programme.