UK’s low-carbon economy surpasses £44bn

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have shown that the UK's low-carbon economy has reached record heights, with the sector growing by almost 7% in 2017 to £44.5bn.

UK’s low-carbon economy surpasses £44bn

The survey states that the number of employees working within the LCRE economy in the UK grew from 208

The annual Low Carbon and Renewable Energy (LCRE) Economy Survey was released on Thursday (31 January), detailing how the green economy is performing in the UK. The current iteration of the survey accounts for 2017, and collated data from around 24,000 businesses.

The survey found that the LCRE economy grew by 6.8% in 2017, increasing from £41.7bn to £44.5bn. The results for 2017 are an improvement on the 5% growth recorded in 2016, and the LCRE sector is now growing at around four times the rate of the rest of the UK’s underlying economy.

The LCRE economy is defined by activities that deliver goods and services in a way that significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions. Unsurprisingly, it was the renewables sector that accounted for strong growth.

The offshore wind industry, for example, was revenues reach £3.6bn, while the renewable heat sector recorded the biggest growth in terms of turnover – increasing from £0.5bn in 2016 to £1.7bn in 2017. ONS data states that this was largely due to increased business activity within the production of the electricity industry.

Heat and wind

However, turnover from the onshore wind sector fell by £0.5bn to £2.8bn in 2017, with manufacturing outputs falling. Last year, RenewableUK warned that the UK Government was risking billions of pounds of new investment opportunities by failing to open up new avenues to deployment for the onshore wind sector.

The added onshore wind capacity in 2017 is valued at £7.7bn, of which £5.3bn is retained in the UK – although this value is spread across numerous years. Reports state that the record level of installations was driven by a deadline to accredit projects for the Renewables Obligation (RO) scheme, which expired in April last year.

RenewableUK argues that the industry is facing a drop in new investments, which will also impact the UK’s climate commitments unless new policies are introduced. 

Regarding exports, the survey notes that LCRE business activity exported from the UK rose by almost 30% year-on-year to £5bn to 2017 – largely driven by offshore wind and low-emission vehicle sectors. Imports remained relatively stable at £5.9bn, recording a small growth.

The survey also states that the number of employees working within the LCRE economy in the UK grew from 208,300 in 2016 to 209,500 full-time equivalents in 2017.

edie recently published an in-depth feature looking at how the UK’s low-carbon economy has changed over the last 10 years. You can read the “10-Year Challenge” piece here.

Matt Mace

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