by Dongying Wang
LONDON, April 25 (Xinhua) -- In the 2009 Budget, Britain has laid out green investment plans to push forward the transition into a low-carbon economy and fulfill its obligations to fight against climate change.
In the budget, Britain committed an additional 1.4 billion pounds (2 billion U.S. dollars) of targeted support for the low carbon economy.
Together with announcements made since last autumn, these measures will enable an additional 10.4 billion pounds (15 billion dollars) of low carbon and energy investment over the next three years.
To tap its potential in leading the world's low-carbon transformation, Britain aims to focus on clean coal technology CCS (carbon capture and storage), offshore wind, marine wave and tidal power generation, nuclear energy, and green vehicles.
"This transition will change every aspect of our society, and alter the way we live and work," says the plan, entitled "Investing in a Low Carbon Britain".
Green industrial revolution will be seen in Britain and across the world, creating a huge demand for technologies, goods and services that will allow us to meet our climate change goals, it says.
Currently, the global market of low carbon goods and services is worth 3 trillion pounds (4.35 trillion dollars), and this is projected to grow to over 4.3 trillion pounds (6.24 trillion dollars) by 2015.
As a world leader in low-carbon and resource-efficient services and technologies, Britain holds a 3.5 percent share of the global market.
Around 880,000 people in Britain are employed in the green sector, and the country sees a great potential in increasing this number, as it steps up investments in green innovation and programs.
To deal with the duel challenges of energy security and emissions reduction, Britain will have its energy mix hinged on a trinity of clean coal, renewables and nuclear energy.
CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE (CCS)
In the 2009 budget, the government has pledged to deliver four CCS demonstration projects, in a bid to pursue an early commercial application of the clean coal technology.
This green technology has been proven to have the potential to remove around 90 percent of the CO2 emitted by burning fossil fuels.
It involves capturing, transporting and storing CO2 securely in sub-surface geological formations, such as depleted oil and gas reservoirs or deep saline aquifers.
The CCS was seen by many energy experts as the very solution to a hungry world for sufficient and clean energy supply.
In Britain, where coal generated 31 percent of electricity in 2008, a third of its existing coal-fired power stations are due to close in the coming decade.
During a debate in the House of Commons on Thursday, British Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said, "Britain needs new coal-fired power stations but only if they can be part of a low carbon future."
Miliband proposed a requirement to demonstrate the CCS on a substantial proportion of any new coal-fired power station, and a commitment to fit the CCS on the entire plant when the technology is proven effective.
Effective financial mechanisms are key to initiating CCS projects, John Kessels, a senior analyst with the London Coal Center of the International Energy Agency, said at a recent low-carbon conference in London.
Britain took the lead in last year's negotiations on the 2020 EU Energy and Climate Change package to secure a deal worth billions of Euros to fund demonstration of the CCS and innovative renewable energy technologies.
The European economic recovery plan currently under negotiation also proposes over 1 billion Euros (1.3 billion dollars) for CCS demonstrations.
MARINE AND NUCLEAR ENERGY
As a world leading market in offshore wind, Britain has seven fully operational offshore wind farms and two demonstration sites. It is estimated that the sector could create up to 70,000 jobs in Britain and up to 8 million pounds (11.6 million dollars) in annual revenues by 2020.
Though not as advanced as the wind sector, the wave power market is estimated to have the potential to grow in Britain by almost 60 percent over the next seven years.
Worth some 28 million pounds (41 million dollars), the Wave Hub project, the world's first large-scale wave energy demonstration center off the North Cornwall coast in southwest Britain, is due to start operation in 2010. It is expected to create 1,800 jobs and inject 560 million pounds (812 million dollars) into the British economy over the next 25 years.
The successful development of British oil reserves in the NorthSea from the mid 1970s onwards has led to the substantial growth of the country's offshore supplies industry.
The sector has become a global leader in offshore and subsea engineering, with supply chain exports worth up to 5 billion pounds (7.25 billion dollars) per year, and employing an estimated 100,000 workers.
The government will offer tax breaks to encourage companies to reuse North Sea infrastructure for CCS and wind power projects.
Nuclear power has been part of Britain's energy mix for the past five decades. There are currently 10 power stations operating across England, Scotland and Wales, supplying around 16 percent of the electricity generated in Britain in 2007.
FUNDING ENERGY EFFICIENCY
It is estimated that British businesses could save up to 3.3 billion pounds (4.78 billion dollars) a year on their energy bills through energy efficiency measures. The amount is equivalent to the salaries of more than 135,000 people on an average wage.
Britain has pledged to step up support and create incentives for businesses, consumers and the public sector to improve their energy efficiency.
The success story in California of the United States is a good example of the benefits of improving energy efficiency. Since the adoption of energy efficiency standards and policies 30 years ago, residents and businesses in the city had saved up to 56 billion dollars by 2003.
In the 2009 budget, it was said that British renewable and energy projects stand to benefit from up to 4 billion pounds (5.8 billion dollars) of new capital from the European Investment Bank through direct lending to energy projects and intermediated lending to banks.
Britain is also setting up a new Low Carbon Investment Fund to offer 405 million pounds (587 million dollars) of support for low-carbon sectors with high growth and great job creation potentials.
The fund will provide the industry with the facilities it needs to develop and demonstrate technologies such as offshore wind and marine energy, and help businesses establish its manufacturing and supply chains in Britain.
The 2009 budget pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 34 percent in 2020 compared with 1990 levels, making it the first country to bind itself to a framework of emissions reduction, which also includes an ambitious 80 percent cut by 2050.
Even so, Britain has also announced a number of measures, including tax breaks, to halt the decline in oil exploration in the North Sea, in the wake of the sharp fall of oil prices since the summer of 2008.
Whilst promoting Britain's low-carbon vision, Chancellor Alistair Darling also defended his country's continued reliance on fossil fuels, saying coal, oil and gas will continue to be a major source of energy for the foreseeable future, and clean technologies such as the CCS are vital to ensure power production from these sources without damaging the environment.