The UK leading the shift to a clean energy economy

Electricity generation in the UK was the greenest on record in 2020, according to the National Grid Electricity Systems Operator (ESO). The average carbon intensity over the year fell to 181g of CO₂ per kilowatt hour (gCO₂/kWh), a reduction of 66% over the last seven years.

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Renewables’ share of electricity generation (wind, solar, hydro and other renewables) increased to a record 47.0% in Q1 2020, compared to 35.9% in Q1 2019, mostly due to increased capacity and higher wind speeds in February 2020. In 2019, the UK became the first major economy to adopt a legally binding obligation to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. However, more new green technologies need to be deployed in order for the UK to meet its climate targets.

Offshore wind is a success story for the UK. It now has the largest installed offshore wind capacity in the world, which will rise to 19.5 GW by mid-2020s. By 2030, the UK plans to increase its offshore wind capacity to produce more than enough electricity to power every home in the country, boosting the government’s previous 30GW target to 40GW. The initiative will be backing innovations to make the most of this proven technology and investments to bring new jobs and growth to ports and coastal regions. According to the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC), the UK leads the world in offshore wind installations. This provides a unique opportunity for this technology to contribute to the UK’s net zero emissions target and support a green recovery. In terms of supply chain, there is a requirement for blades, monopile foundations, towers, and export and array cables. 

Heat networks form an important part of the government’s plan to reduce national carbon emissions. The UK has the largest pipeline of heat network projects in Europe. Currently, heat networks meet only 2% of UK heat demand, but the UK Climate Change Committee has said that 18% of heat will need to come from heat networks by 2050 if the UK is to meet net zero by then. UK heat networks represent a significant investment opportunity across distribution, generation, storage, controls and customer interface. The UK government has committed over £500m towards development of the heat network and has set up a Heat Networks Delivery Unit to grow deployment. The government has also recently launched a heat investment vehicle scheme to enable greater private finance into heat network projects.  There is a significant opportunity for Swedish companies across the whole supply chain. Demand cannot be fulfilled by existing UK companies alone, and the market is already growing at 20% per year.

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Renewables’ share of electricity generation increased to a record 47.0% in 2020.

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By 2030, the UK plans to quadruple its offshore wind capacity.

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In Northern Ireland alone, the low carbon sector employs 12,000 people.

Scotland
Around 25% of Europe’s wind energy resources are in Scottish waters. Scotland wants to become carbon neutral by 2045 (five years earlier than the rest of the UK). Scotland has enough clean energy resources to produce hydrogen for domestic needs and the capability of producing hydrogen for export to other markets either by ship or pipeline. Scotland offers one of the best opportunities for industrial-scale clean hydrogen production in Europe. 

Wales
Wales is committed to achieving a transition to a low carbon economy that allows people to live sustainably and focus on delivering results both economically and socially. This has driven its focus to embed a wide range of technologies into the mainstream, including on and offshore wind, small and large scale hydro projects, plus explore the opportunities available from its marine resource.

Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is recognised for its long established expertise in engineering, technology and construction and is utilising its established skill base to diversify into the low carbon and renewable energy sectors. Its highly skilled companies and academic base offer a holistic approach for the research, design, and manufacture of products, provision of services and increasingly the integration of digital technologies to provide intelligent solutions. The low carbon sector employs more than 12,000 people in over 300 companies. Combined, they have the capability of providing a range of innovative products and services to address the specific needs of the various energy, water and transport supply chains, with annual industry turnover in excess of £1.7bn. Northern Ireland is also emerging as a region of excellence with a range of innovative design, manufacturing, installation, operation and maintenance companies within several subsectors including wind, anaerobic digestion, biomass, energy from waste, and associated feedstock supply. More recently, local businesses have developed expertise in the production of green hydrogen from curtailed wind power, manufacture of hydrogen buses and the development of intelligent systems for energy storage.

Swedish technology providers within renewables and cleantech solutions are renowned globally for their development, implementation and exports. With broad expertise, specifically in district heating, waste management, energy efficiency and storage, as well as sustainable construction, the UK market ought to provide Swedish companies with interesting opportunities.

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Clusters

Business cases

Meet the Swedish businesses that are making it in the UK renewable energy sector.

Smart City technology

The UK Smart City Tech sector represents a growing market, where smart cities continue to expand in both number and level of sophistication. Currently, almost a third of the UK’s urban areas with populations of over 100,000 have clear ambitions and/or substantial programmes of current activities labelled as ‘smart’. 

While the past decade was characterised by pilot projects and a select group of innovator cities, the coming decade will likely see widespread uptake of smart city solutions. Hence, UK smart cities are set to provide growing commercial opportunities for Swedish companies offering solutions that address the challenges of urbanisation and its effect on the environment. 

The UK’s diverse profile of smart cities provides opportunities for companies to match their capabilities with the particular needs of each city. For example, cities with advanced infrastructure (London, Glasgow, Bristol) can offer testbeds for commercialising novel technologies and solutions. Developing smart cities (Newcastle, Leeds, Nottingham) may still have infrastructure needs or require upgrades. Emerging smart cities (Aberdeen, Belfast, Cardiff) can act as a blank canvas for more holistic smart city solutions. In addition, different cities are developing research expertise and particular interest in different smart city areas, including: smart energy (Bristol, London); smart buildings (Glasgow, Nottingham); smart infrastructure (Newcastle, Brighton); smart mobility (Cambridge, Leeds). This presents an array of opportunities across the UK for Swedish solution providers operating within different areas of the smart city space.  

Northern Ireland is recognised as a global leader in smart cities primarily because of its creativity and technological expertise. Its companies have a diverse range of smart city capabilities, providing solutions from data analytics, smart governance, smart mobility and infrastructure to smart buildings, energy and health.

Northern Irish companies are successfully exporting innovative smart solutions for intelligent tracking solutions for assets; data insights to help transform cities for planning; providing pedestrian & crowd analytics insights; remote building and machine monitoring; enabling the use of technology and data to improve and connect networks, services and the urban environment for the benefit of citizens and the economy.


In addition to business opportunities, the UK provides support and funding for smart city innovations. Programmes like the Connected Places Catapult (the UK’s innovation accelerator for cities) help businesses develop, implement and commercialise the latest technology and innovation for existing markets, as well as create demand and grow new markets in the UK. Innovate UK (the country’s innovation agency) provides funding for business and research collaborations that accelerate innovation and drive business investment into R&D. Support is available across all sectors, value chains and UK regions. Innovate UK’s recent funding for smart cities has included: the cyber security challenges in the Internet of Things; innovative 5G infrastructure technologies; low carbon technologies; connected and autonomous vehicles; and sustainable urbanisation.

The UK also provides support for companies through R&D tax credits and is home to numerous centres of excellence and university collaborations that are focused on smart city developments. 

Sweden has a long history of developing innovative solutions across a diverse array of cleantech and smart city tech areas. These include solutions within energy, waste management, mobility and many other areas related to the sustainable development of cities. As a world leader in digital competitiveness and innovation, Sweden also develops the digital technologies that hold together the grid for smart city solutions – particularly within areas such as renewable energy, smart grids, water, waste-to-energy and smart mobility, which can help shape a more sustainable future for cities in the UK.

Substantial public and private capital is needed for decarbonisation projects, together with major investment in research and development. Investment is also needed in technology that integrates locally-generated energy into the electricity system, as well as in digital technology and innovation. COP 26 and the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan also give the British Embassy an opportunity to discuss with Swedish industry the future of issues such as heat, hydrogen, wind and other renewable energy and smart city solutions and technology – areas where Sweden excels.

Business case

Clusters

Wind

North Scotland, Forth & Tay (Scotland), North East, North West, Humber, East Anglia, Solent, North Wales.

Heat

Bristol, Liverpool, Leeds, London, Scotland.

Wave and tidal

Scotland: Lewis, Shetland (Scotland), Northern Ireland: Strangford, England: Cornwall, Falmouth, Wales: Pembrokeshire, Anglesey

Smart City solutions

Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Liverpool, London, Oxford, Cambridge

Grants, tax reliefs and other incentives for businesses 

Innovate UK/Innovation competitions
 

Funding for innovative smart energy systems/competitions
 

BEIS Heat Investment Vehicle
 

Heat Networks Investment Project
 

Green Heat Network Fund
 

Local Authority Support by the Heat Networks Delivery Unit
 

Scottish Government/Scotland’s Heat Transition Deal

 

There are a range of financial incentives open to companies looking to develop solutions for the energy transition in Scotland, including: Green Jobs Funding Call, Energy Transition Fund, H2020 Funds, Scottish National Investment Bank, Green Investment Bank, Germany’s Hydrogen Strategy – Int. Partnerships, BEIS Fund UK Gov

 

Invest Northern Ireland may be able to offer companies: ​Revenue grants towards start-up costs, interest relief, factory rental costs, training costs, marketing development costs and R&D. R&D capital spending can be written off against income. ​Also ​pre-employment training grants, ​ employment grants,  finance investment in the share capital of a company and government loans at commercial and concessionary rates, ​property tax exemptions for manufacturing property, depreciation allowances.​ Northern Ireland also has an active venture capital market catering for projects up to £2m.​