The importance of investing in electric cars to support local business and protect the environment

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Michelle Donelan Column 19 May 16

On Sunday it was a pleasure to attend the Climate Friendly Bradford on Avon’s 10th anniversary celebration at the Wiltshire Music Centre. This active local community group do a lot of work promoting low carbon and sustainable lifestyles and helping to raise awareness of climate change issues. I had the opportunity to thank them for their commitment to this cause.

Coincidently, in Parliament earlier in the week, I asked two separate but linked questions about climate change issues, firstly on the support of the electric car industry and secondly about fracking.

The market for electric cars is booming and shows no signs of slowing. Government investment in electric vehicle technology is good for the environment and for business. With technology becoming cheaper the costs for energy storage has reduced significantly. There have been rapid cost reductions in battery and other energy-storage technologies and this has brought electric cars closer to economic viability. We need to be a world leader in the sector.

In and around Wiltshire we have some amazing companies working in this field and many associated with the wider car business, not least Chippenham’s high-tech wheel manufacturer Dymag, and I know that more and more are looking at entering the market.

As I said to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change last week, as the costs of batteries falls to levels that make electric vehicles a very viable technology and the market for electric vehicles is exploding worldwide, it is essential that Wiltshire business benefits from that boom and that I want the Government to do all it can to support British designers and manufacturers become world leaders in this enormous emerging industry.

Also important to the environment and local businesses is investing in new energy sources that remove the need for burning coal. Shale gas extraction is one avenue being looked at as an alternative – albeit not ‘green’. Unfortunately, there seems to have been enormous scaremongering surrounding the issue of shale gas extraction (or fracking as it is commonly known) with some suggesting that it could take place in and around Bradford on Avon. This is understandable as the area is completely unsuitable.

I wanted more clarification of what steps the Government is putting in place to protect local communities so used another question to the Secretary of State to get answers. As a firm believer in local democracy and putting more power in the hands of local people to shape their community, I shared concerns that community views would be overlooked and that Bradford cannot cope with any additional traffic. It was confirmed to me that the only way that fracking will get permission anywhere is with local consent and I cannot see that being likely in Bradford on Avon. For more information on this or any other issue contact me via michelle.donelan.mp@parliament.uk