Renewables and clean tech can power industrial strategy's power goals, says resources sector

Written by: Editorial staff | Published:

In its response to the government's industrial strategy consultation, the Renewable Energy Association (REA) has suggested that greater industry collaboration and government support will recognise the potential that the bio-economy and clean technology sectors can deliver in regional growth, innovation and exports. The Resource Association called for the resource efficient, circular economy to be considered as a pillar of the industrial strategy in its own right while the CIWM said it would like to see more attention paid to resource productivity and security.

According to the REA, from producing energy from waste to the deployment of energy storage in conjunction with solar panels and electric vehicles, there are a range of sectors where industry collaboration with government now could put Britain in a position to export technology and services in the future.

"The [REA] response also highlights how delivering affordable energy and clean growth are complementary objectives. Many renewable technologies are now competitive with, or more competitive than fossil power sources such as gas," said Mark Sommerfeld, policy analyst at the REA and lead writer of the response to the consultation.

With the aim of bolstering the message that clean energy should power the industrial strategy, the REA has sent a letter with five other trade associations to business secretary Greg Clark.

It said: "Technological advances and competition are demonstrating that a modern, low-carbon energy system offers increasing potential to improve the competitiveness of our economy, while delivering investment and employment across the UK - particularly in regions outside London and the south east."

Resource Association view

Chief executive of the Resource Association, Ray Georgeson expressed concern about the low profile in the Green Paper on the resources industries and the limited acknowledgement of the potential and value of a resource efficient, circular economy to underpin the UK's future economic success.

As well as calling for the resource efficient circular economy to be considered as a pillar of the industrial stategy, the Resource Association urged for:

  • Greater attention to be given to the future business risks of over-dependence on material inputs from high-risk developing economies and a revival of the idea of a ‘Stern for Resources’ review of resource productivity and resource scarcity
  • Building a stronger focus on quality in the use of materials and resources, ensuring that quality feedstock for recyclers and reprocessors is at the heart of a resource efficient economy
  • A Resources Sector Council to respond to Government’s calls for industries to unite behind strong leadership to develop in partnership with the UK's new economy.

Georgeson said: "The Government’s Green Paper presented a huge opportunity to inspire business around a new approach to industrial strategy and the principles within it are good news. We were disappointed that there was only modest reference to the value of the resources sector and have urged Government to see us as a critical foundation sector for the future growth of the UK economy. We stand ready to work with Government and colleagues in the resources sector to collaborate and develop the partnerships needed to make a resource efficient circular economy a reality.”

Delivering against the goals

REA's Sommerfeld added: "Renewable technologies have the potential to deliver directly against the goals of all 10 pillars of the industrial strategy. From innovation and skills to the potential to export both products and knowledge, renewables and clean tech can support the nation in advancing a wide range of interests while deploying infrastructure fit for the 21st century."

James Court, head of policy and external affairs at the REA warned: "The window for action in gaining competitive advantage in this growing sector is small. Luckily, this industrial strategy poises us to become leaders in a range of renewable and clean technologies, with significant benefits for industry and bill-payers alike. This sector is poised to provide new growth, and with the right support the sector's technology and skills can be a key source of exports post-Brexit."

Sustainable economic growth

Responding to the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, CIWM said it would like to see more attention paid to resource productivity and security.

“Sustainable economic growth is not just about labour productivity,” says CIWM chief executive Dr Colin Church. “The availability of resources – raw materials, water, energy, land use – will also be critical to UK industrial competitiveness and resilience and must be a cross cutting priority in the Industrial Strategy.

“The Government’s Resource Security Action Plan, published in 2012 and due for updating, noted that growing competition for resources was already having an impact on UK businesses, with 29% of profit warnings issued by FTSE350 companies in 2011 attributed to rising resource prices. Add in other risks, such as significantly increased price volatility in some commodity markets, and the potential impact of Brexit on the availability or price of material resources needed by the UK economy, and it is not hard to see why CIWM and many others will be trying to get this message across to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

“Policy-making in this space must also be co-ordinated. The reliance placed by the Green Paper on Defra’s highly anticipated Defra 25 Year Environment Plan framework, which ministers were [recently] promising for the current Parliament, coupled with the news of a general election in June, should provide the necessary impetus for this important document to be published as soon as possible,” continued Church.

Dual contribution

The CIWM said its response stresses the dual contribution that the resource and waste management industry can make to future UK prosperity, firstly as a dynamic sector that provides over 100 000 jobs and almost £7bn gross value added to the economy; secondly through the role it can play in improving resource productivity and efficiency in the UK through sustainable waste practices and the supply of the quality secondary raw materials and feedstocks.

The CIWM highlighted how the sector can help the Government to meet one of the headline aims of the new strategy, namely inclusive growth and employment, both because secondary resources derived from waste can support local economic development and because industrial growth and new housing requires appropriate waste management services and infrastructure.

"This potentially means more job opportunities in some of the UK’s traditional low growth/high unemployment areas," stated Church before adding: "Transitioning to a resource efficient, low carbon economy will require a renewed focus on ‘green skills’ as part of the strategy and cites that skills related to low carbon growth, resource productivity and efficiency are increasingly important to most professions and supply chains from engineering through to architecture and manufacturing through to retail and hospitality."

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