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Success of south east's green economy revealed

Last modified: 30 August 2012

Installation of solar panels at Sandwell Valley

Image: Andy Hay

Environmental groups, politicians and businesses are hailing the strength of the south east’s green economy after a new report shows how it has quietly turned into a local success story in the face of the wider economic downturn.

The report, Green Economy: A UK Success Story, published today by the Green Alliance along with RSPB, WWF, Greenpeace and Christian Aid, takes new figures and officially published Government statistics on the strength of the green economy.

It reveals that the sector has shown recession resilience, growing healthily since the banking crisis.

While the general economy will only return to 2007 levels by 2014 at the earliest, the green economy will have grown by 40% in that same period.

The south east region is one of those leading the way with nearly 120,000 low carbon and environmental jobs in 2010-11, more than the motor trades (80,400) and telecommunications (36,600) put together.

Chris Corrigan, RSPB south east regional director, said: “We’ve shown this summer we can stand at the centre of the world stage when it comes to sport. But when it comes to forging a healthy green business sector we also have a lot to be proud of here in the south east.”

The report states that the vast majority of private sector investment last year went into low carbon projects (£14.5bn). High carbon infrastructure only attracted £1.2bn of private sector money – relying far more on public spending.

The south east has seen £297m of renewables investment and nearly two and half thousand renewables jobs announced in the last financial year.

The region also saw 153% increase in installed renewables capacity from 2007 to 2010 and generated 2436 GWh of power through renewables in 2010.

Alan Whitehead, MP for Southampton Test, chairs two parliamentary groups; one on renewable energy and the second concerned with sustainable waste.

He said: “When we see how the Green Economy has withstood recession so well in the UK, it defies belief that there are still siren voices telling us that green investment must be dropped or put on the back burner. Green investment is a driver for recovery and not an impediment to it: and it will, in the long term, be vital in allowing the UK to take its proper place in a future low carbon world economy.”

Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, added her support saying: “This timely and welcome report is a tribute to the success of the South East’s renewable energy and green industry sector in creating jobs for local people, generating new economic activity and reducing carbon emissions.

“In cities like Brighton and Hove, home to my constituency, green industries are increasingly being seen as the key to resilient local economies. 

“However, the report is also a warning to the Government: that it cannot continue to ignore the huge potential of the green economy to aid our economic recovery. Instead of clinging desperately to his failed austerity plan while the UK economy spirals further into recession, the Chancellor must drop his anti-green rhetoric and recognise that investing in the jobs-rich, low carbon infrastructure of the future is the right thing to do, both for the economy and for the planet.”

Local business Brighton Energy Co-op is an example of the growing success within the green sector.

Damian Tow, project director, said: “We are a pioneering community owned renewable energy company which formed in November 2010. Since then have raised nearly £180K in community investment, £33K in grants and a £50K loan to roll out energy efficiency education, surveys and solar PV.

“In July 2012 we installed 133kWp of solar panels in Brighton & Hove, making BEC the largest renewable energy owner in the City.

“For us the 'Green Economy' is all about opportunity - the opportunity for creating new jobs and industries in a recession and also transforming where capital is invested from carbon intense multinational industries to low carbon, local and 'human scale' businesses.

“It's as much about empowerment to create solutions together as it is about generating green power".

Mr Corrigan added: “From the renewable energy industry to the development of low carbon technology and the work done by sectors such as the water industry to transform themselves into environmental champions, we are proving ourselves as world leaders.

“This area has grown while others have faltered in choppy financial waters, reflecting a high level of private sector confidence in green businesses with billions of pounds of investment pouring in. This is down to strong and ambitious environmental targets which have been set by political leaders.

“But it is only the beginning. One million people are currently employed in providing low carbon and environmental goods and services and that figure is growing.

“We must ensure the right policies are in place to keep this momentum going – so that green businesses can help speed our economic recovery and strengthen the fight against climate change.”

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