Last week a delegation of British companies supported by U.K. Trade and Investment attended the sustainable-development advocacy conference Globe 2014, in Vancouver, British Columbia, to showcase the country's expertise in low-carbon solutions and sustainability innovations. U.K. Trade and Investment (UKTI) is the British Foreign Offices' business development arm which aims to promote U.K. businesses abroad, as well as attract foreign investment in the country, with an overarching aim of creating job growth.
Despite the fact that the U.K. is a small country and is not a huge emitter of carbon in the global context, it has nonetheless set ambitious environmental policies, like reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. In addition, since the U.K. operates under the European Emissions Trading Scheme, regulatory incentives exist for companies to develop innovations that will help meet emissions targets.
I had the opportunity to speak with Mike Rosenfeld, Vice Consul - USA Clean Technology Sector Lead for UKTI, about the strengths of the U.K. clean tech industry and how its businesses are poised to be competitive players on the global stage.
I asked Vice Consul Rosenfeld whether the regulatory environment has helped the U.K.'s clean tech industry gain a competitive advantage, to which he replied: "Policies that have been put into place have given some businesses an opportunity that might not otherwise have been there. To some extent, they were forced to be compliant; but they have found there is money to be made."
As a result, this has likely spurred the U.K. to develop particular strengths, with U.K. industry now being strong in areas such as carbon reduction, water management, metering and smart grid, as well as waste management and resource recovery.
In addition, Rosenfeld said, the U.K. has made good use of innovative financial structures to allow expertise to develop by way of public-private partnerships between government and business. The country has also developed expertise in consultation services around ensuring compliance, and has lent some of that know-how to places like California in the development of the state's cap-and-trade program mandated under AB32, California's Global Warming Solutions Act.
Clean tech has already created a significant number of jobs in the U.K. Rosenfeld stated that offshore wind power, where Britain is already global leader, has bolstered job growth saying, "It will require the workforce, but also the whole supply chain that goes around it, from turbine manufacturing, undersea cabling, and the manufacture of towers."
Estimates, given to me, based on research from the U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change predict that by 2020 the number of “green” jobs in the U.K. will increase to 1.4 million – up from 1 million today. According to Renewable U.K., the wind, wave and tidal energy sector employs approximately 20,000 full-time staff with a further 20,000 indirectly employed, such as companies that supply goods and services to the sector. Over the next decade, more than 70,000 jobs could be created in the nation's wind, wave and tidal energy sector, according to Renewable U.K.
A couple of the British companies represented at Globe 2014 are setting up North American operations too. Beyond Energy Code Consulting, a joint venture between U.K. and Canadian entrepreneurs, will help Canadian commercial and institutional customers move towards net-zero energy operations. Another, International Synergies, is also opening up a Canadian office specializing in programs that share and reuse resources in an industrial ecosystem.
Image Credit: Luc Van Braekel
Follow me on Twitter: @PhilCovBlog
Phil Covington holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School. In the past, he spent 16 years in the freight transportation and logistics industry. Today, Phil's writing focuses on transportation, forestry, technology and matters of sustainability in business.