The low carbon business revolution is set to get even bigger. And UK companies, with their rich skills-base, are well placed to tap into the global opportunities that this will bring.
Growing at four per cent a year - and faster than developed world GDP - the global low carbon industry is forecast to increase from £3.2 to £4 trillion between now and 2015. Investment in renewables now outstrips investment in fossil fuels and patents for renewable energy rose by 24 per cent each year between 1999 and 2008. Meanwhile, world energy demand will be 45 per cent higher in 2030 than it is today.
Certainly, the UK’s aim to ensure that at least 15 per cent of its energy comes from renewable sources by 2020 will present some of the greatest opportunities for innovation since the Industrial Revolution. And UK companies are better placed than most to take a major slice of that business.
Take, for example, offshore wind. The UK is now the largest single market for offshore wind in the world. It has, and will continue to create thousands of jobs, many of which will be in manufacturing. Yet perhaps the most lucrative - and indeed exciting - opportunities can be found in cross market collaborations where talent and expertise is sourced right across the global skills pool.
UK-based companies like Foster + Partners are already working with international partners to help deliver cutting-edge energy solutions. The London-based architect firm designed Beijing airport’s international terminal, one of the world’s most sustainable and the masterplan to Abu Dhabi’s Masdar, the world’s first fully clean-tech city. Meanwhile, British engineering designers, Arup and Partners, are developing energy-saving architecture for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup stadia.
Indeed, as with any successful overseas venture, finding the right business partner is crucial. So how do smaller firms go about finding the right business partner and opportunity? One way is through events like the European Future Energy Forum (EFEF), Europe’s largest exchange of knowledge on the future of energy. The annual event - which this year takes place in Geneva - provides an ideal platform from which to showcase the UK’s capabilities in technology, innovation and R&D.
With innovation being this year’s focus, there will be considerable scope for UK SMEs to demonstrate technologies in areas like carbon capture and storage, where Britain is a world-leader. Given that export opportunities in this area could reach £3 to £10 billion a year for the UK economy by the late 2020s, this is clearly big business.
Last year, EFEF took place in London, bringing together some 4,000 business people from 53 countries. It was sponsored by UKTI - the Government department that helps UK companies do business internationally and overseas firms to set up in the UK. UKTI’s presence at events like EFEF is to connect UK companies with their international counterparts to discuss opportunities – and potentially do business.
So with a myriad of markets to choose from, which offer the best opportunities for UK firms? Take, for example, Abu Dhabi. Its energy rich economy is one of the world’s leading hotspots for emerging renewable energies like hydrogen, solar and tidal. And the wider UAE is not only a market in its own right, but an important bridge to emerging economies in the wider Middle East, South Asia and East Africa.
Many UK energy firms are already contributing to the UAE’s ambitious green policies, particularly in areas like grid connection where demand for skills is high. Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi’s current series of reforms, including increasing efficiency of water use by 60 per cent and licensing 100MW of concentrated solar power, will generate further opportunities for UK SMEs to share their skills and expertise.
And these opportunities are not only to be found in the Middle East. Brazil, which is at the forefront in areas such as hydro power and biofuels, is swiftly emerging as a key partner for UK companies. Cambridge marine start-up company, Green Tide Turbines (GTT), has already lined up £20 million of potential investment in Brazil having developed a revolutionary method of generating energy from tidal power that is more efficient and cheaper to operate than existing technology.
Certainly the sequence of sporting events taking place in Brazil and the UK over the next five years presents a huge area of common interest in sustainable infrastructure with both countries committed to delivering a greener Olympics.
Meanwhile, with India planning to spend some $1 trillion on infrastructure projects over the next five years, there will be significant opportunities for UK companies to work with Indian counterparts and deliver cost-effective, sustainable solutions in areas such as green buildings.
Undoubtedly, the world is on the edge of a dramatic transformation that will shape the way business is undertaken. With the global shift to a low carbon world fuelled by ever-emerging renewable technologies, there will be plenty of opportunity for UK companies to engage with a gamut of markets seeking the expertise.
European Future Energy Forum: 10-12 October 2011, Geneva Palexpo, CP.21, 1218, Le Grand-Saconnex, Switzerland.
Please contact: Alan Love
+44 141 228 3687
World Future Energy Forum: 16-19 Jan 2012, Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, Abu Dhabi
Please contact: Emily Addiscot
+44 141 228 3697