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UK could be left behind in green energy transition, study warns

Economics

The UK is at risk of falling behind other countries in the global race to reach net zero, according to a new study by Oxford Economics.

Researchers have predicted British growth in low-carbon electricity output to reach 2.9 per cent by the end of the decade, lagging France (3.1 per cent) and Japan (3.2 per cent). 

The nations with the largest growth in the sector were the US (6.4 per cent), China (7.2 per cent) and India (10.6 per cent). European nations also made the top five, with Spain predicted to reach 6.0 per cent and Germany 5.8 per cent.  

“Of the world’s largest eight economies, the UK is forecast to have the slowest growth in low-carbon electricity generation between now and 2030,” said Oxford Economics, which published the report for Energy UK. 

This slowdown can be attributed to “low levels of expected investment”, with tax incentives from the US and European Union also increasing competition, according to the report. 

The researchers also raised concerns that the lack of growth in this sector could lead to investment in green energy infrastructure being pulled from the UK to countries with more attractive regimes.

“Unless the government ensures investment in the UK is attractive, the 480,000 jobs that a net-zero transition is estimated to support by 2030 will not materialise,” the report said.


Solar panels

Solar panels / iStock

Image credit: iStock

The US is among the countries that has provided the most amount of investment and tax benefits for green energy sources in the last year.

Its Inflation Reduction Act pledged $370bn for the energy transition, including the manufacture of batteries for electric cars and solar panels. It became the largest investment the US has ever made to tackle climate change and reduce the country’s carbon emissions. 

Moreover, the EU has also stepped up its own tax reduction measures for investment in zero-carbon technologies through the €270bn REPower EU initiative. 

In the UK, the Office for National Statistics estimated that the sector generated £54.4bn in turnover and employed nearly 250,000 people in 2021.

However, concerns regarding energy security and the political opposition towards decarbonising the economy has caused uncertainty about the government’s early commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050.


Team installing solar panels in the roof of a house

Team installing solar panels in the roof of a house / iStock

Image credit: iStock

In April, a report from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee called on the government to rapidly increase the generation of fossil fuel-free electricity or risk facing limits to the volume of electric vehicles and heat pumps that can be powered through low-carbon electricity.

The body said that, at its current pace, the UK is risking its efforts to reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels, while also being stuck paying more for energy.

Meanwhile, some low-carbon projects are facing delays of up to 15 years to connect to the electricity network because of a failure to create joined-up policies across the sector. 

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