Industry interview: Andy Eastlake, CEO of Zemo Partnership

The agenda for Zemo Partnership’s 20th Anniversary Conference next week, for which Transport + Energy is a media partner, has been confirmed. The event, which takes place on 15 June – Clean Air Day 2023 – at City Hall, London is supported by the Mayor of London, and will include a review of progress on the ‘Road to Zero’ strategy and decarbonisation challenges ahead.

Ahead of the event, Andy Eastlake – Chief Executive at the Zemo Partnership – reflects on the group’s achievements over the last 20 years and discusses what needs to be done to accelerate the transition to net zero.

Q. How are you marking the 20 year milestone for Zemo this year?

A. ”Zemo’s 20th Anniversary Conference will take place at City Hall – one of the most sustainable buildings in London – on Thursday June 15, Clean Air Day. Zemo has worked for many years to demonstrate the synergies and join up the clean air and climate agendas – so many of the necessary policy prescriptions are similar. The Conference should further help to do this. 

”The event is being held with the support of the Mayor of London. We’re planning a range of activities at, and around, the event to reflect on the Partnership’s achievements over the last twenty years and celebrate the contributions of the people who have played an important role in delivering progress.

”While we’ll spend some time reflecting on the past, we’ll primarily be looking forward and focusing on how the Partnership and its members can best collaborate to rapidly accelerate the transport transition to net zero.” 

Q. What will be the main highlights for you at the 20th anniversary conference next week?

A. ”We’ve got an incredible line up of speakers; there’ll be contributions from London’s mayoralty, other city and local mayors and senior representatives of devolved governments in Scotland and Wales. We’ll hear from the UK Government (both transport and envirnonment) and see how the challenges of climate change and air pollution transcend local, regional and national boundaries and political party divisions. Chris Stark, the Climate Change Committee’s CEO, will talk about what needs to be done in both the UK’s transport and transport energy sectors to deliver their contributions to meeting the UK’s legally obligated climate targets.

”The afternoon will be a ‘deeper dive’ into the challenges of decarbonising different parts of the transport sector with parallel sessions looking into what we need to do to deliver zero emission light duty vehicles as well as commercial vehicles and buses. One session will focus on how we can deliver an electricity recharging infrastructure fit for the future, bringing together representatives of the transport and energy sectors as we’ve been doing for two decades. 

”Being a bit of a tech ‘geek’ I’m particularly looking forward to ‘Battery Question Time’ later in the day, hosted by TV presenter and EV-expert Ginny Buckley alongside leading experts in battery technology.

”The evening session will have more of a party atmosphere. There’ll be drinks, music and networking and we’ll celebrate some individuals who have made the biggest contributions to the Partnership over the last two decades; hopefully the day will also inspire the next generation of innovators in this sector too.” 

Q. What do you hope will be achieved as a result of the conference?

A. ”The Conference, I hope, will show how much can be achieved through sustained and effective collaboration between the widest range of key stakeholders in road transport. Twenty years ago, the first electrified car – the Toyota Prius –  had only just been introduced into the UK and we had little idea what transport decarbonisation was going to look like or just how many stakeholders it would have to involve. Now we have a much clearer view of future transport and zero tailpipe emission electric vehicles are entering the mainstream in almost every sector.

”We now have – or can certainly see a way to – most of the technologies we need to deliver a decarbonised transport and energy system. But after the tumult of the last few years there are still conflicts and disagreements over what each person/authority/company needs to do and when. As the Conference will explain, now’s the time to deepen and strengthen collaboration including across sectors (like transport and energy) and accelerate the delivery of the UK’s transition to net zero transport.  That is the primary role of the Partnership (the clue’s in the name!), getting us all pointing in the same direction and each playing our part as ambitiously as we can.”

Q. What have been Zemo’s key achievements over the last 20 years?

A. ”Having been there from the start, I have many personal highlights but it was impossible to narrow them down! But the communal view on Zemo’s ‘Top 20’ and a selection of the Partnership’s ‘Greatest Hits’ will be on show at the Conference! Zemo (formerly as LowCVP) is well known for having convened the delivery of the colour-coded environment label for new cars (and, later, used cars too). The Partnership influenced the rules around biofuels, determining some of the regulations enshrined in the RTFO and helped to deliver the successful introduction of E10 petrol. Zemo’s work on buses has been very highly regarded and hugely influential; the UK is now widely viewed as leading Europe in the adoption of zero emission buses. There have been important achievements, too, in laying the groundwork and foundations for progress in tackling the harder-to-decarbonise freight and HGV sector. There are many more, but not enough space here to list all twenty!” 

Q. How have the transport and energy sectors been transformed over the last two decades?

A. ”20 years ago the UK was the first country to set itself a target to shift its mainstream motoring to low carbon technology (The ‘Powering Future Vehicles Strategy’ 2002) and to begin a new industrial revolution to deliver it.  The Partnership was formed to coordinate that change across government, industry and users.  Arguably we are at that same point again with Net Zero (not low carbon) legislation; a transformation in the automotive industry and ZEV mandates reliant on consumer engagement.  So now, as Zemo, we must work together even more closely to make this happen.  

”The electrification of light duty vehicles is a revolution now well under way in the UK. Decarbonisation of energy (in all its forms) is progressing apace. Transport electrification and the complementary digital connectivity is transforming the outlook for the energy sector, presenting many challenges but opportunities too; as the grid shifts to intermittent, renewable sources of energy, battery electric vehicles can play a major role by drawing power when supply is abundant and contributing to the grid when it’s short.

”We’re at an exciting moment in terms of the relationship between transport and the energy supply sector, working with the digital and consumer communities and there are an abundance of opportunities for engaged businesses coming down the road. The Zemo-convened EV Energy Taskforce, which reported its findings to Government last year, highlighted many of the opportunities that exist for both sectors and for UK Plc overall.”

Q. What do you see on the horizon for Zemo over the next 20 years?

A. ”In terms of the UK’s transition along the ‘road to zero’, I’ve no doubt that the next twenty years will be as much of a rollercoaster as the last twenty have been! There will be many, many new opportunities and exciting developments, a lot of them now clearer, but several still unforeseen but equally exciting.

”With your support, Zemo will be in the vanguard, driving collaboration to help accelerate delivery of the transition…but you’ll have to come to the Anniversary Conference to find out all the details!”

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