Unlocking the clean energy opportunity

Read time: 3 mins        Added date: 01/02/2024

 

In this article, Matt Kite, Director of the Power and Energy Sector at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), discusses the latest developments in the clean energy and power supply arena.

A renewables revolution

Clean energy is fundamental to the UK achieving Net Zero and the Government estimates it’s a sector that will attract up to £60 billion of investment every year by the late 2020s.

That money will come from a mix of government and commercial sources and represents a massive opportunity for UK manufacturers of all sizes.

There is no single solution and the range of technologies that will be required to hit Net Zero is hugely diverse, including energy storage, electric vehicles, heat pumps, retrofitting buildings, fusion and wind power.  While some firms may already have experience in clean energy, others may be able to use their existing capabilities to pivot into the sector.

Still more may have new technologies that haven’t been commercialised yet and face the challenges of building prototypes, then upscaling production.

Integrating new power sources into the National Grid will be incredibly tough - and let’s not forget that there is another massive challenge around decommissioning the obsolete nuclear power stations. 

It means that there’s now a real focus on how to scale up SMEs so that they can thrive in this challenging new environment and diversify away from legacy sectors like oil and gas.

Suppliers are expected to ensure their operations are not only financially acceptable, but also environmentally conscious, and the MTC is well positioned to advise SMEs on how to make that transition.

Key growth areas

We have identified three key growth areas that will deliver significant opportunities for supply chains:

  • Wind Power 

There is a significant gap in our capacity and capability to deliver the Government’s target of 50GW offshore wind generation by 2030, especially given the government target to increase the UK content of all offshore wind farms to 60% by 2030, from a current 15%.

There’s also an ambition to reshore the supply of support vessels that will build and maintain offshore windfarms, with the majority currently being produced in the Far East. SMEs involved in the oil and gas industry could certainly repurpose or diversify into the offshore wind industry with the appropriate support.

  • Nuclear Power 

The Government says 24GW of new nuclear power is needed by 2050, up from around 6.5GW at the moment. That will require a large increase in volume manufacturing of everything from modules for reactors to small components like switches and valves, again providing significant opportunities for SMEs.

  • Hydrogen

This sector is so embryonic that it doesn’t really have a recognised UK supply chain. There are a lot of initiatives going on to try and understand what will be required, but we can imagine opportunities for companies currently operating in sectors that are becoming obsolete. So, firms with experience in methane systems as well as petrol and diesel engines, for example, could well pivot into a future hydrogen economy.

And we anticipate opportunities for firms to work together on collaborative bids for government funding, a strategy that the MTC can also support on.

Steep learning curve

The 2050 Net Zero target might seem a long time away, but it’s not much more than 25 years from now.

Considering that we have been running fossil fuel-based energy systems for more than 150 years, the low-carbon learning curve is going to be very steep.

This is an area where the MTC can assist, helping source matched funding and offering free line walks to assess what capabilities, equipment and knowledge exist within the organisation that would match with the requirements of the clean energy economy.

That can include appropriate advice on processes, methodologies and equipment selection, whether it be in manufacturing, services or general operations.

If you aren’t thinking about the contribution you can make in green industrial sectors, then you should be.

Taking the next step

Taking the next step

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