Green Summit: Andy Burnham demands Government U-turn on energy as he unveils £65bn plan to be net zero by 2038

Mr Burnham said the Government needs to think again on ideas such as fracking and restricting solar farms and outlined his support for community-owned energy production.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has called for a U-turn on the government’s energy policy as he set out a £65bn vision for the city-region to become net zero by 2038.

The mayor has written to the new Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt asking him to back the city-region’s costly plans which will ‘re-industrialise’ the North of England. He has also announced a new taskforce which will explore opportunities to harness wind, solar and tidal power in Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region.

It came as the Chancellor announced a series of U-turns on Monday (October 17), including scaling back the Energy Price Guarantee from April next year. But the Greater Manchester mayor called for more reversals on ‘backward-looking’ energy policies such as reopening fracking and restricting new solar farms.

Speaking at the fifth annual Green Summit in Salford, Mr Burnham said he wants more ‘community-owned’ energy production in Greater Manchester.

What did Mr Burnham say about energy policy?

Mr Burnham warned that without measures such as community-owned energy production the city-region will not meet its target of being carbon neutral by 2038, affecting the UK’s 2050 target too.

He said: “We do need U-turns on policy. But we also need a government that fully buys in to the 2038 vision because the UK will not get to 2050 unless places like Greater Manchester are freed up to go faster – and we’re ready to go faster.”

Greater Manchester has already mapped out the state of the current energy network and identified what needs to be done to decarbonise it by 2038.

Working in collaboration with Co-operatives UK and Climate Outreach, the taskforce will explore whether energy from wind, the sun, waves – and even grass – could be harvested to power the equivalent of both city regions. Green energy entrepreneur Dale Vince has now been tasked with looking at how people in the North West can directly own and control renewable energy.

What did Dale Vince say about energy production for Greater Manchester?

Mr Vince, the Ecotricity founder, is ‘a fan of public ownership’ and said wind and solar energy can be built ‘super fast’, but funding the projects will be a challenge.

Andy Burnham and Dale Vince. Photo: Dan Monaghan

He said: “I’ve built windmills in all four countries of the UK. I think up North, things tend to be more pragmatic – people are less precious. Down South you get more landscape preciousness. But right now we have an energy crisis – bills are incredibly high and I think people’s merits of having windmills in the landscape has changed.”

What did Mr Burnham say about net zero?

Mr Burnham said Greater Manchester will need £65bn of investment from the public and private sectors to realise this energy vision and reach net zero by 2038. However, he said 70% of this is projected to be invested on upgrades anyway.

Over the next five years alone, Greater Manchester will need to retrofit 140,000 homes, install nearly 2 GW of rooftop solar panels, connect 8,000 more homes to heat networks and fit heat pumps in 116,000 extra homes.

Bolton Council leader Martyn Cox told the summit that this will cost £6bn and require £1.9bn of extra investment that is not projected to be spent already.

The taskforce will produce an interim report in the first half of next year.