Five things you probably didn’t know about the UK’s renewable export market

As a new report reveals that the UK's marine and wind energy companies exported goods and services to an impressive 44 countries across the globe last year, edie rounds up some of the key trends in the UK’s renewable imports and exports.

The first iteration of RenewableUK’s Export Nation study was published on Monday (June 18) and reveals that a sample of 43 British renewable firms struck 445 deals to work on 434 wind, wave and tidal energy projects across the globe during 2017.

The trade body claims that these contracts were worth up to £7.5m each, with some companies earning £20m in total from their wind and marine energy exports over the 12-month period.

These promising findings were welcomed by the Department for International Trade Minister, Baroness Rona Fairhead, who claimed they demonstrated a “clear demand for innovative UK energy technology across the world as the renewable energy sector continues to grow”.

“We are an outward-looking sector, increasingly export-led, securing new deals worldwide,” Renewable UK’s chief executive, Hugh McNeal, added.

The study came as a major new outlook from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) found that the global energy sector is on course to source half its power from renewable technologies by 2050, leaving fossil fuels with a market stake of just 29%.

BNEF additionally concluded that more than £415bn ($548bn) is set to be invested in battery storage capacity by 2050, with two-thirds of this funding being at grid level and the remaining third installed behind-the-meter by businesses and the general public.

Here, edie dives deep into the data to bring you five headline trends surrounding the UK’s renewable power industry and its global impact.

1) Knowledge is in high demand

As well as selling industrial kit, the report found that several UK corporations are now capitalising on chances to export knowledge and expertise on how to plan, build and run projects.

A notable deal of this type came from consultancy ITPEnergised, which is collaborating on a project to deliver a tidal stream turbine to China Three Gorges – China’s largest clean energy corporation and generator – by the end of next year.

The study concludes that the nation’s intellectual capital is one of its “greatest” economic assets, “yielding lucrative export contracts in the global renewable energy sector”.

2) Germany is the top importer

The report lists several of the countries the UK exports the most renewables to, both in terms of cost and in terms of transaction frequency.

It concludes that the “most important” importer of British renewables is Germany, which imported equipment and expertise for onshore and offshore wind projects last year.

Germany was followed by the US, France, Denmark and China, with the Netherlands, Ireland, Taiwan, Belgium and Japan rounding out the top ten importers of UK renewables.

3) Surprising supply chain diversity

The contracts secured by UK companies working in the wind and marine energy sector were found to cover “an extraordinarily wide variety of goods and services”, from supplying, installing and maintaining wind turbines to providing financial and legal services.

Some of the more surprising exports included helicopters, crew and vessels to monitor and service offshore wind farms; staff and equipment to conduct geological and biodiversity surveys and software to design equipment.

4) Exports should expand post-Brexit

Following claims from industry leaders that leaving the EU could provide the nation with opportunities to innovate in order to remain a global leader in the sustainability sphere, the RenewableUK study concludes that Britain’s scope to export renewables is “extending” and will continue to do so post-Brexit.

Noting that the nation has a “formidable reputation” as an international trader due to hundreds of years exporting across the world, the report concludes that identifying trading opportunities for renewables in non-EU markets is a “key priority” in securing continued growth in British industry as the world energy market divests from coal.

It highlights the fact that that UK-based wind, wave and tidal energy companies won contracts in 2017 to export goods and services to nations in every continent – not just within the EU.

5) Offshore set to prop up UK economy

While emphasising the progress the UK has made in exporting renewables, the report notes that the nation only imports half of the resources and expertise required for offshore wind projects, championing its internal supply chain.

“The UK has successfully developed a domestic supply chain which is currently providing just under 50% of content for UK projects,” the report reads, citing the offshore wind sector’s recent pledge to double its generation output by 2030.

The study explains that meeting the target would to deliver a five-fold increase in export value of £2.6 billion a year to the UK by 2030, supporting around 16,000 additional jobs.

Sarah George

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