UK could unlock £70bn a year in renewable energy, report claims

Plausible for UK to become global clean energy superpower if investment is ramped up

The UK could unlock £70bn every year by generating enough clean electricity to become a major exporter of energy to mainland Europe, according to a former government economist.

A new report has found that by increasing Britain’s clean electricity generation 50% above its current projections for 2050 it could become a clean energy superpower capable of exporting £17bn of green electricity to Europe a year.

The ambition to generate more green electricity than needed to meet the UK’s climate targets could also create an additional 279,000 British jobs, and support a total of 654,000 British jobs, across the UK’s clean energy industries, according to the report.

The analysis by former government economist Chris Walker for the UK Business Council for Sustainable Development found that it was “plausible” that the UK could transform from a net importer of energy to an exporter of green electricity by taking a lead in the global race to “net zero”.

By going “beyond net zero” the UK’s economy would attract trillions of pounds of global private investment and double the £35bn a year economic benefit forecast for its current path, according to Walker.

However, Britain could miss the “once in a lifetime opportunity” unless government policymakers remove the barriers holding back the UK’s green energy ambitions, the report said.

“The UK’s strong competitive advantages in clean energy generation mean it is uniquely well positioned in the race to net zero which can deliver significant and sustained economic growth, raised productivity and increased exports,” it said.

“Other advanced economies will undertake similar journeys to the UK at the same time. For the UK to cement its leadership in tackling this challenge, crucial public policy decisions need to be taken, backed up by investment from private sector organisations to ensure that the UK makes and captures the necessary investment to capitalise on its strengths,” it added.

The report warned that National Grid was struggling to cope with the number of new clean energy projects applying to connect to the grid, which have surged to 50 a month from 50 a year over the last decade leaving many projects with a 10 to 15-year wait to provide the UK energy system with clean electricity.

The government should also intervene to make sure that the UK has enough batteries to store its renewable electricity and create a market for producing green hydrogen. In addition, the UK’s draughty housing stock and commercial buildings must be retrofitted to improve the UK’s energy efficiency.

Jason Longhurst, chair of the UK Business Council for Sustainable Development, said: “We have the potential to generate huge amounts of clean energy which would turn the UK from a net importer of energy to a nation exporting vast amounts of clean power, worth £17bn a year, to mainland Europe.”

“We believe this paper delivers an evidence base to enable our government to drive new incentives to transition, leverage in further private sector investment and position the UK as one of the world’s most investable markets for companies tackling the challenges created by climate change,” Longhurst added.

Original Article – https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/may/15/uk-could-unlock-70bn-a-year-in-renewable-energy-report-claims


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