Theresa May seeks clean energy to buoy vision of global Britain

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May plans to try to turn the nation’s early adoption of clean energy into a global business after Brexit, according to a new industrial-strategy paper.

A goal of the new government is to “capitalize on strengths to win a substantial share of global markets,” according to the document published Monday, which listed clean energy manufacturing and services as a key area of focus.

May has said she wants a “global Britain” to bolster the U.K.’s ties to other countries as the nation secedes from the European Union. The U.K. is a world leader in wind energy with more offshore wind power installed than any other country. That industry drew a record $29.9 billion of investment last year, up 40 percent from 2015. The U.K. government is also considering plans for the world’s first tidal lagoon, which if approved, would be produced in the U.K.

Focus on Costs

Closer to home, the government also plans to play a role in coordinating changes to the nation’s energy infrastructure such as the installation of smart grids, charging points for electric vehicles and potentially, hydrogen fuel.

The U.K. will prioritize costs and security of supply when seeking to deliver on its climate change targets, according to the document and will set out a long-term road map in 2017 that will seek to minimize the costs of switching to a low-carbon economy to businesses. An emissions reduction plan will also be published in 2017.

“Energy costs are crucial for all industries, so as this reboot for Britain takes shape, with renewable energy now a mainstream power source, we need to maximize the benefits we all get from the investments that have been made in modernizing the way we generate electricity,” said Emma Pinchbeck, executive director of trade association RenewableUK, in an e-mailed statement.

She urged the government to reconsider its ban on subsidies for new onshore wind farms, saying it’s the cheapest form of new power for Britain.

‘Missed Opportunity’

Monday’s strategy document was a “missed opportunity” said Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party. “At the heart of any forward thinking industrial strategy should have been an unequivocal commitment to phasing out the use of fossil fuels,” she said in an e-mailed statement.

Lucas criticized the government for not yet putting forward a plan for meeting its carbon budgets as well as its plan to privatize its U.K. Green Investment Bank.

“A truly green industrial strategy must mean more investment than ever in the zero-carbon economy, helping Britain to become a world-leader in the renewable and low-carbon sectors,” she said.

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