Green growth

A survey of business leaders has revealed that very few believe the UK is well placed compared with its major competitors to take advantage of the £3.2 trillion global environmental market.

Of the more than 700 business leaders polled by the Carbon Trust, the highest proportion (34%) say that Germany is better prepared than any other country to benefit from green growth. The UK lags far behind, with only one in eight claiming it is the best-prepared country.

The Carbon Trust says that UK businesses need to invest more to become leaders in the environmental and low carbon market, which is forecast to grow by 25% over the next four years.

Its survey found that, while 92% of UK business leaders think green growth represents an opportunity for their business, only one third are actually investing money in the research and development of green products and services.

Despite the findings, there is evidence that the UK environmental and low carbon sector, currently worth more than £112 billion and employing more than 900,000 people, is expanding.

RenewableUK recently reported that employment levels in the UK wind-energy industry increased by 91% between 2007/8 and 2009/10.

It says that there were 9,200 full-time equivalent employees working in the large-scale wind-energy industries in 2009/10 compared with 4,800 in 2007/08.

That number is set to grow following the announcement by Siemens that it will build a new £80 million wind-turbine manufacturing and export facility at the Port of Hull, creating around 700 jobs.

Also, the introduction of the feed-in tariff in April 2010 has created 17,000 jobs in the solar industry, according to the Renewable Energy Association.

This total will rise by at least another 300 after Sharp announced it was investing £30 million in its Wrexham factory, enabling the Japanese company to double production of solar panels at the site.

Sharp’s plans also include establishing a new facility to train solar-panel installers.

The government too is seeking to ensure that employers in low-carbon, environmental areas of business – such as the installation, maintenance and repair of photovoltaic panels, ground-source heat pumps and biomass products – can access a skilled workforce to help them grow by establishing a new National Skills Academy (NSA) for Environmental Technologies.

The NSA will receive up to £2.5 million of public funding over three years. Employers will invest a similar amount.