Insight & Analysis

Press release: UK expected to experience a 75% decline in renewable energy infrastructure trade by 2023

Published: Oct 2019

25th September 2019 – As Climate Week is upon us, original research compiled by Cicero Group, using trade flow data provided by Coriolis Technologies, demonstrates that the UK will not be able to successfully achieve net zero emissions by 2050 by acting alone.

Newspaper press release

The research shows that the UK is expected to experience a major decline in trade levels of renewable and sustainable technologies – including photovoltaic panels, wind turbines and biomass over the coming years. This continues a recent trend that has seen the sector decline by 65% between 2012 and 2017. If this trend continues, projections suggest a fall of a further 75% by 2023, meaning the UK will be increasingly reliant on importing the necessary green infrastructure required to meet these ambitious targets – so where from?

China far outweighs all other countries in current levels of trade in renewable energy technologies, producing over two and a half times the trade volumes of the next highest country, another emerging market – Malaysia. In fact, the top seven markets are all Asian. It would, however, appear that several other emerging markets may be set for a key role. Vietnam, Chile and Thailand are all expected to post a double-digit compound annual growth rate in renewable energy technology trade for the years 2018 to 2023.

Mark Twigg, Executive Director, Cicero Group commented: “With the trading relationships the UK achieves with the EU and US at the forefront of the Brexit debate, our research suggests that these relationships will do little in helping us achieve our 2050 climate targets. If the UK Government really wishes to ensure that these targets represent a serious ambition, the UK will have to nurture its relationships with these emerging economies, as well as invest and champion their development.

Scale of the challenge: Highlighting the scale of the challenge, the UK has only managed to cut the levels of CO2 emissions by a third in the years 1990-2016. Over that same period, while the amount of electricity the UK generates through renewable sources has increased, albeit from a very low starting point, it still falls well short of what will be required in the future.

Andrew Roberts, Head of Research, Cicero Group commented: “Achieving the 2050 goal relies upon a fundamental shift in how we heat our homes, travel to our places of work and operate within these businesses. Any solution will not come through marginal adjustments, but from a wholesale change in our energy, transport, business and residential infrastructure. With less legacy energy infrastructure to hold them back, emerging markets are championing the technology domestically as well as well as internationally. The UK successfully achieving their 2050 goal will rely on strong post-Brexit trading relationships beyond those we hold with the EU and US.”

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