Skip to main content

You are here

Grounds for optimism on UK green investment

It might not be immediately apparent from the frenzied nature of public discussions on low-carbon energy in the UK but it appears that, in spite of everything, we’re doing not too bad, actually.

A new report has calculated that investment in renewable energy in the UK last year added up to the same as six Olympic stadiums. Not too shabby.

Private investment in energy as a whole was greater than transport, construction and financial services (the latter maybe not too surprising, taking track record into account). But it’s the renewable figures that are arguably the most striking, with the report stating that enough capacity was installed between 2010 and 2013 to power eight million homes.

But even bigger than one year’s work – a fascinating piece of analysis from the Vancouver Observer reveals that Britain is second of all the G20 nations in the race to low-carbon prosperity. By that, the author means money generated for each tonne of CO2 emitted.

The UK generates $4,700 for each tonne, according to the study – up from $2,500/tonne in 1990. When looked at on a per-person level, this appears to be even more striking:

The British can now run their economy with just 8 tCO2 per person each year. Twenty years ago they would have needed to emit 15 tCO2 per person to generate the same GDP per person.”

Elsewhere in the bucks per tonne league, France is the only country ahead of the UK right now, though the USA has leapt five places since the last check of these figures to provide the closest challenge to Europe and Japan. Those nearer the bottom are less surprising: the carbon-intensive Russia and Saudi Arabia are near the foot of the table, with China bang on it.

Cash and confidence invariably go together in today’s global markets, so it might not be much of a surprise to learn that the Renewable Energy Association (REA) has recently polled members and found out that they’re more confident that businesses will go from strength-to-strength than they were are the start of the year. REA Chief Executive Dr Nina Skorupska says:

The renewables industry is poised to significantly grow its contribution to employment and economic recovery. The growing confidence in the power sector and the Electricity Market Reform programme is good news as the UK urgently needs new wind, solar and biomass to keep capacity margins healthy.”

As usual, though, signs of progress in increasing capacity and reducing demand for carbon-intensive energy sources need to be taken with a note of caution. Consistent progress and stolid commitments are needed if the UK is to truly be an example to the world.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

Post a comment