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UK low carbon economy worth £122bn

New government reports show that the low carbon economy has been growing at over seven per cent a year since 2010 and now supports nearly half a million jobs, with the North West leading the way.

New government reports show that the low carbon economy has been growing at over seven per cent a year since 2010 and now supports nearly half a million jobs, with the North West leading the way.

According to the latest report from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the low carbon sector includes low carbon electricity and heat, waste and recycling, energy efficiency products, low carbon finance and consultancy services, and low carbon vehicles. 

This is a narrower definition than has previously been used by the Government as it omits more traditional environmental sub-sectors such as air and noise pollution. The new definition is intended to provide a more accurate picture of supply chains specifically working with low carbon goods and services.

North West

The report provides a breakdown of the sector across the UK by activity, sales and business investment. In total, it found that the sector was worth nearly £122 billion in turnover in 2013, with the largest activities being waste reprocessing and electricity generation, which accounted for £54 billion and £33 billion respectively. 

The North West has by far the largest involvement in low carbon electricity generation across the UK due to its role in the nuclear industry, but is also a leading region in the insulation, heat pumps and energy efficient lighting, windows and doors sectors.

The North West also has the largest number of people employed in the low carbon sector as a whole, with low carbon jobs representing up to 3 per cent of total employment in the region. 

‘Untapped potential’

Overall, the low carbon sector experienced impressive growth across the UK between 2010 and 2013, with average annual turnover rising by 7.6 per cent and average annual employment by 3.8 per cent.

However, Michael Rea, chief operating officer at The Carbon Trust, warned against complacency in the sector. 

“We must not take our foot off the pedal as there is a huge untapped potential across a range of technologies, from carbon capture and storage to low carbon heat”, he said.

“We need to continue to prioritise and comprehensively back the technologies that offer the best chance of securing long term carbon savings and jobs at the lowest cost.”

Energy investment

A second government report, published simultaneously by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, explores the investment secured in low carbon energy in the UK since 2010.

According to the report, energy being generated from renewables has grown by 165 per cent since 2010 and now provides 18 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs.

At £11.4 billion, the solar PV sector has attracted the most investment out of all low carbon energy technologies since 2010, with a total of around 650,000 PV installations now in place across the UK.