Ken’s Corner: I had to make sure I kept an eye on the real world

I am writing this piece following several meetings in Ireland with our Alliance partners, discussing the political backdrop of the last 12 months and what the next 12 months will look like. These meetings add to the many UKIFDA has attended in the previous two months across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, meeting representatives of all the main political parties.

Ken Cronin

Changing narrative

What has struck me is the changing narrative around meeting targets, specifically net zero by 2050. Previously, there was little discussion about how to achieve the goals and who would bear the costs. However, the conversation is now moving towards the economic implications ahead of the elections in the UK and Ireland. This is a welcome shift as our industry knows that customers are worried about the huge cost of government policies and what it means for their pockets.

Politicians are beginning to come to grips with this issue, as seen in recent announcements by the UK Prime Minister regarding his net zero reset, the Labour leader’s spending commitments, and comments in the Dáil by Sinn Féin about the burdens of carbon tax.

There is, of course, a double-edged sword – while trying to provide comfort to the electorate, this activity also shows policy inconsistency and creates delays to business. This delay, unfortunately, does not help meet targets, and most research suggests that any delay now will ultimately increase costs.

In all of our recent political dialogue, we have demonstrated not only the economic and consumer benefits of using renewable liquid fuels for heating but also that we can meet the carbon targets up to 2033. Therefore, we don’t have to delay and make it more expensive. As one politician said – “WOW, this is a complete no-brainer”.

Working together in changing times

However, the problem with no-brainers is that we still need to do the work to make the ‘system’ arrive at the same conclusion. That is why EXPO 2024 is so critical – the theme of ‘working together in changing times’ is now more important than ever.

I have previously mentioned in this column that our Future Fuels campaign, which began in May 2021 with a simple leaflet posted through our customers’ letterboxes, was just the start. It came about because of a huge collaboration between distributors, technicians, manufacturers and suppliers. I am proud of how we have built a successful relationship with OFTEC, Fuels for Ireland and many others across our industry.

Let’s keep pushing forward and making progress. Now is not the time to rest on our laurels. We still have a lot of work to do, especially in planning and delivering the next phase, particularly in a year when politics will be front and centre in Ireland and the UK.

We now need to decide what we will say, how, to whom, when and using what data. That’s the EXPO 2024 agenda.

The Future Opportunities Conference at EXPO 2024 is structured to look at these questions across the UK and Ireland – the views of current politicians, existing players in the industry, new market entrants and data providers will all play a part.

Moreover, the discussions at the stands will be the beating heart of the event. Yes, it is about meeting old friends; yes, it is about showcasing and selling your products, but I hope you agree that it is also about ensuring we continue to do so for many years to come.

Working together increases the possibility of finding the next simple idea that turns the dial. We all need to keep an eye on the real world, and Liverpool is a great place to do so. I encourage as many of you as possible to attend and join the discussion, and I look forward to seeing you there.