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Clean energy made central tenant of industrial strategy

The government has put clean energy at the centre of its new industrial strategy, placing innovations like smart energy systems, electrical vehicle manufacturing and offshore wind electricity generation at the heart of policy development. Published this week, the government’s new industrial strategy names ‘clean growth’ as one of four ‘Grand Challenges’ they aim to solve. The industrial strategy, which aims to boost UK productivity and take the sting out of Brexit, describes decarbonisation as one of the “greatest industrial opportunities of our time.” The policy document does includes a commitment to work together to build on successes in clean energy. It said: “We have world-leading capabilities in areas including electric vehicle manufacture, offshore wind, smart energy systems, sustainable construction, precision agriculture and green finance. “With business, academia, the government and civil society working together, we can do more.” But the strategy document excluded the clean energy sector from a ‘sector deal’ which could have supported growth in a key industry. Further, many of the policies were already announced in the government’s Clean Energy Strategy, released in October, but the new policy document did discuss new plans to boost the smart electricity grid.

Smart electricity grid

The government wants to embrace new technology to use resources more efficiently, by taking a whole system approach to the energy market. Focusing on local, smart energy grids, the government aims to improve electricity storage and demand management to become a world leader in smart energy technology. Developments are expected to feed into improvements in green heating and transport. Notably, improvements in electricity storage will bolster Britain’s electric vehicle (EV) credentials. The government has already promised to spend £400 million on EV charging infrastructure. “Smart systems can link energy supply, storage and use, and join up power, heating and transport to increase efficiency dramatically. By developing these world-leading systems in the UK, we can cut bills while creating high-value jobs for the future,” the policy document states.

Sector deals

A key part of Business Secretary Greg Clark’s plan to boost the economy will see the government agree several ‘sector deals’ in different industries. These sector deals provide taxpayer support and policy collaboration on major issues such as automation and training. It avoids charges of ‘picking winners’ by asking different sectors to suggest and lead on new ideas. The approach builds on the government’s success with the Automotive Council, which has been boosted British car making over the last decade. Construction is understood to be close to fleshing out their own sector deal, while the government is making progress on a life sciences deal and an artificial intelligence deal. On the day the government announced the new industrial strategy, they also announced two new deals to invest in the UK’s biotech industry. Two pharmaceutical companies committed to new research centres in London and Manchester. Business minister Greg Clark said it represented “a huge vote of confidence” in the government’s approach. But some industry watchers were critical of the government, suggesting that although they recognised clean growth as one of the key challenges and opportunities in the economy going forwards, they had not committed to a sector deal for the clean energy sector. Clean energy companies have made remarkable strides in recent years, not least with offshore wind power, intelligent demand response systems and the smart energy grid. If the government does not help the sector grow, supporting it in the same way that it supports other key sectors, then they risk not making the most of all this progress.

Published by Utility Helpline on