July 15, 2009 12:55 pm

UK sets out plans for low-carbon economy

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Investments in renewable energy, nuclear power, fuel-efficient vehicles and other forms of low-carbon manufacturing were laid out by the government on Wednesday morning as it unveiled the UK’s industrial strategy for tackling global warming.

Aid worth up to £120m to support the development of a British offshore wind industry makes the sector the big winner of the government’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with climate change.

The government said the UK would be the biggest single market in the world for energy-generating offshore wind.

Recognising the dearth of skills in nuclear power generation in the UK, the government also announced £15m to establish a nuclear advanced manufacturing research centre, made up of universities and a consortium of manufacturers from the nuclear supply chain.

“There is no high-carbon future,” said Lord Mandelson, the secretary of state for business. “But if the transition to low carbon is inevitable, what is not inevitable is that we use the transition as a chance to develop new jobs, new industries here in Britain.”

He said the government would assist the private sector “to make the most of the potential benefits for innovation, growth and job creation in the UK”.

The south-west of England will become the UK’s first “low-carbon economic area”, where wave and tidal energy will be the focus, he said.

Up to £60m of government money will be invested round the country in wave and tidal energy, with targets for funding including the “wave hub” in the south-west, a test bed for buoys that generate energy from waves.

Blyth in Northumberland will also benefit, with testing infrastructure for wave and tidal energy components. There will also be £8m for the expansion of testing facilities at the European Marine Energy Centre in Scotland. Up to £22m will be available for a new marine renewables proving fund that will help companies to test and demonstrate newly developed renewable energy technology.

In order to assist workers in high-carbon industries, the government will also set up a Forum for a Just Transition, with representatives from government, trade unions, charities and businesses.

Lord Mandelson said: “We must ensure that we equip businesses and the workforce with the capabilities and skills to take advantage of the potential benefits as the world moves towards a low-carbon future.”

The low-carbon industrial sector will grow by about 4 per cent a year in value for the next several years, the government said. Currently, the sector’s estimated value to the UK economy is £106bn, employing 880,000 people, according to government estimates.

However, the definition of the sector is broad, taking in the waste industry, water, parts of electrical utilities and parts of the car sector, as well as jobs in finance and consulting.

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