Smart grid innovation could boost UK investment

The UK must act now if it wants to take the lead in smart grids and create thousands of high skill jobs and secure substantial domestic investment, according to a new report.

The research by Ernst and Young for the SmartGrid GB group, a stakeholder group of 23 businesses, claims that the UK could be at the forefront of smart grid technology if it takes an innovate approach and acts quickly.

This it argues, could help create around 10,000 high skill jobs and contribute £13bn to the economy by creating a £5bn export market.

It also suggests that using smart technologies to upgrade the UK’s energy distribution network between now and 2050 would reduce energy costs by about £19bn, as well as help the UK achieve its carbon reduction targets and facilitate the growth of a number of low-carbon industries.

However, the report warns that although the UK is currently well placed to become a world leader in smart grid technology there is a “decreasing time window to do so” with other countries, notably South Korea, China and the USA all developing smart grids.

SmartGrid GB manager Robert McNamara, said: “There is a strong business case and we should not delay in developing a smart grid. If Britain is willing to take a global leadership position there are potentially enormous benefits. But if we want to be a serious competitor in the global smart grid race we must prioritise laying the relevant ground work in order for its accelerated development to take place.”

He added: “The UK cannot afford to take a ‘wait and see’ approach. Failure to deploy a smart grid will hamper development of clean tech industries and push up domestic electric costs. It could also potentially mean that we fail to meet our carbon emission targets.”

Ernst & Young utilities director Bill Easton says that while the transition to smart grids will require substantial investment, with figures showing approximately £23bn is needed, that the benefits outweigh the initial cost.

He said: “In addition to the direct economic benefits, we can also expect to see wider economic benefits to the UK, providing a welcome boost to growth, jobs and exports. These could include close to 10,000 new jobs and exports in excess of £5 billion. Overall, the report paints a compelling case in favour of smart grids.”

Carys Matthews

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