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UK cleantech a £70 billion ‘economic no-brainer’

severn-beachClean technologies and renewable energy — especially offshore wind and wave — could generate up to £70 billion for the British economy, according to new analysis from the Carbon Trust.

The study quantifyies for the first time the economic benefits of investing in a range of clean technologies.

By taking a bold new approach to commercialisation, the UK could not only rev up its economy but create almost 250,000 jobs in offshore wind and wave power alone, the research finds. Offshore wind and wave combined could deliver at least 15 per cent of the total carbon savings required to meet 2050 targets.

Launching the Carbon Trust’s “Clean Tech Revolution” campaign, Carbon Trust Chief Executive Tom Delay said a new strategy is required if Britain is to transform itself into a global hub of low-carbon innovation. He called for Britain to make smart investments through greater technology prioritisation and to move away from technology neutrality.  This new approach, outlined in the report, means public support will be focused on emerging low-carbon technologies and industries that will have the maximum impact on cutting carbon and generating UK economic benefit.

In the first of a series of economic reviews, the Carbon Trust demonstrates that, by applying this new approach, the UK could seize 45 per cent of the global offshore wind market by 2020, delivering £65 billion of net economic value and some 220,000 total jobs by 2050. To do this requires a comprehensive package of technology-focussed support, including investment of up to £600 million in research and development, removal of regulatory barriers and new incentive mechanisms to accelerate deployment of offshore wind power.

Two-thirds of the economic benefits would come from the fast-growing low-carbon technology export market, which can be unlocked by ensuring that investment into the UK is made attractive, according to the Carbon Trust.

Analysis also shows that, with 25 per cent of the world’s wave technologies already being developed in the UK, Britain could be the “natural owner” of the global wave power market, generating revenues worth £2 billion per year by 2050 and up to 16,000 direct jobs.  To generate maximum economic benefit, the UK must focus on addressing funding gaps in the wave sector, the study finds.

“These technologies are not green ‘nice to haves’ but are critical to the economic recovery of the UK,” Delay said. “To reap the significant rewards from their successful development we must prioritise and comprehensively back the technologies that offer the best chance of securing long-term carbon savings, jobs and revenue for Britain. We have known for a while that the UK has an important role to play in the clean tech revolution. But, rather than following in the footsteps of others, this new analysis shows it is an economic no-brainer to be leading from the front. The global race is clearly on and the clock is ticking.”

“The Government aims to secure Britain’s green future, and seize the economic benefits of the move to a low-carbon economy,” said Minister for Energy and Climate Change David Kidney. “We are determined to position our country as a hub of the advanced green manufacturing revolution. The £405 million towards investment in low-carbon industries secured in the recent budget is a strong signal of our intention to realise that vision. The commercialisation review is an important contribution from the Carbon Trust and I welcome their valuable insights.”

As part of the “Clean Tech Revolution” campaign, the Carbon Trust will be launching 15 new research and development and technology acceleration projects in 2009, in addition to over 40 projects that are already in place.  The campaign is also being backed by leading innovators, businesses, investors, scientists and non-governmental organisations

“The UK’s greenhouse gas targets mean that by 2050 we must reduce our emissions to just one tenth of today’s levels, per unit of output,” said John Beddington CMG FRS, chief scientific adviser to HM Government and head of the Government Office for Science. “This is a formidable challenge, requiring step changes in the rate at which we improve our energy efficiency and in low-carbon innovation. The Carbon Trust’s proposals recognise the need for us to be smarter in focusing our investments, including to help businesses seize the economic opportunities of the transition.”

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