Many people will remember the 2020 budget as the end of austerity and the start of a £30bn spending splurge to counter the coronavirus crisis. Coming down from the clouds, others will be grateful for next month’s rise in the national insurance threshold, from £8,632 to £9,500. What really caught my eye, though, was Rishi Sunak’s “plan for prosperity”. He said: “We need to invest now in the technologies of the future . . . Ours is a history filled with ideas, invention and discovery. The first steam railway ran between Stockton and Darlington. The first TV was invented by a Scot. A Welshman invented the first hydrogen fuel cell. And Jocelyn Bell Burnell, born in Northern Ireland, discovered the first radio pulsars.” Sunak aims to raise research and development spending to £22bn a year in “the fastest and largest increase in R&D spend ever”. This massive commitment may help Britain hit its zero-carbon target by 2050. Here and now, it gives me hope for two recent investments. The chancellor’s emphasis on “green growth” outside the southeast could be good for ITM Power, a Sheffield company that combines solar and wind power to create carbon-free hydrogen. It may also help the renewable energy investment trust Ecofin Global Utilities & Infrastructure. Both are better for the environment than batteries that merely displace pollution from where you can see it to where you can’t. But, amid the worst bear market in years, I admit bias: these green shares are among my few recent purchases that aren’t deep in the red.
Times 15th March 2020 read more »