Green Technologies: Private Investment

Energy Security and Net Zero – in the House of Commons at on 27 February 2024.

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Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee, Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee

What steps she is taking to help increase private sector investment in green technologies.

Photo of Jack Brereton Jack Brereton Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent South

What steps she is taking to help increase private sector investment in green technologies.

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

The UK has already made tremendous progress in securing investment in green technologies; recent figures indicate that there was £60 billion of investment in the UK in 2023, meaning that since 2010, the UK has had £300 billion of public and private investment in low-carbon sectors. Since I took office in September, we have put in place new policies and signed deals with different countries, and the investment has continued to flow, with plans for around £24 billion of new investment in low-carbon sectors announced by the private sector.

Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee, Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Harmony Energy based in Knaresborough opened Europe’s largest battery farm in Yorkshire in 2022. It has raised the issue of connectivity challenges being a blockage to investment, so I welcome the connections action plan, which aims to cut connection times by up to 90%. Battery farms are critical for energy retention and storage, and are particularly helpful for renewables, so may I ask my right hon. Friend for an update on how the plan is being implemented?

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

We have set out the most radical reforms to the grid since the 1950s. As the action plan sets out, we are taking action with Ofgem and network companies to accelerate those really important network connections. Network companies are offering earlier connection to battery storage and generation projects. For example, 10 GW of battery storage projects are already being offered connection dates to the transmission network that are on average four years earlier than was originally agreed.

Photo of Jack Brereton Jack Brereton Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent South

The UK’s ceramics sector has invested heavily in energy efficiency technologies, and it is committed to going further, but many of the alternative green technologies are not yet viable, and there are serious risks that too stringent net zero targets will result in carbon leakage, and in offshoring an industry and skilled jobs to countries that have a far worse environmental record. Will my right hon. Friend look seriously at exempting the ceramics sector from the emissions trading scheme, to give the sector the breathing space that it needs to invest?

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

I commend my hon. Friend’s unwavering commitment to advocating for the ceramics sector in his constituency. The UK Government remain steadfast in safeguarding sectors deemed at risk of carbon leakage, and I strongly encourage the ceramics sector in his constituency to actively participate in the consultation on free allocation policy, which is open.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

A new report from the Green Finance Institute and the Institute for Public Policy Research notes that a lack of public investment and strategy is holding back progress on unlocking private investment, and that the chopping and changing of policy pathways has damaged investor confidence. The Secretary of State likes to say that she has a clear strategy, so will she tell investors what it is? Will she call on the Chancellor to deliver the scale of public investment that we so urgently need to restore investor confidence and lift the UK off the bottom of the G7 league table for private investment, where we currently languish?

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

I thank the hon. Lady for that question, but I am surprised that she did not welcome the recent news that the UK was the first country in the G20 to halve its emissions since the 1990s, as I know that subject is dear to her heart. As I have said, in 2023, the UK saw around £60 billion of low-carbon private and public investment. We got that extraordinary success by encouraging private investment. Whether through the contracts for difference scheme, our new policies on capital allowances, or the effect of the green industries growth accelerator on the supply chain, the UK is doing everything it can to attract investment, and that is exactly why we have made those achievements.

Photo of Kirsten Oswald Kirsten Oswald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Women), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Equalities)

Last week, the Scottish Government announced £24.5 million of public investment in a new cable factory, which will attract a further £350 million of inward investment. Does the Secretary of State agree that the best way to increase private investment is for the Government to increase public investment, to signal that the UK is open to green investment? Should not the UK Government therefore invest at least £28 billion a year, so that we can maximise private investment, and so that economic growth from the green transition is also maximised?

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

As I said, our record on net zero investment is incredibly strong. In fact, I believe the CBI had a report out this morning showing that our net zero sectors have been growing by 9% in the last year. We have set out plans for further investment, whether that is in grid connections, supply chain investment through our Gigafund, or reforming capital allowance. All those things, and not public sector investment alone, attract private investment to this country.

Photo of Sarah Jones Sarah Jones Shadow Minister (Industry and Decarbonisation)

This Government are locked in a doom loop of inertia, and everyone is talking about it. Just this week, the National Infrastructure Commission said that the Government are taking too long, need to move faster, and that greater urgency is required. The CBI report that the Secretary of State mentioned says that

“strong future growth from green businesses is being put at risk”.

Labour’s national wealth fund will crowd in private investment and create thousands of good jobs for plumbers, engineers, electricians and welders. Is blowing our advantage and losing the race for the industries of the future part of the Government’s plan, or do they just not have one?

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

I thank the hon. Lady for having the chutzpah to attempt that question. If she would like to talk about uncertainty on investment plans, she need only look at those on the Benches behind her, who have performed the most extraordinary flip-flop on that. We have delivered the second highest cumulative amount of recorded low-carbon investment across Europe over the past five years.