Speech by Commerce Secretary at Green Trade & Investment Expo

Welcome to the Green Trade and Investment Exhibition.

Let’s talk about Blyth. Blyth is a coastal town 16 miles from here. Coal mining was its cornerstone.

But when Blyth’s last coal mine closed three decades ago, around 1,700 jobs disappeared. Some people thought the city would be left behind.

It is true that the last few years have been difficult and that challenges still exist.

Yesterday I took some of you to see how the city is becoming one of the nation’s most important bases for clean energy.

It is home to the Catapult of Offshore Renewables, where the world’s largest turbine blades are put through their paces.

Another company called JDR is transforming the site of the former Blyth coal-fired power station into a next-generation offshore cable plant.

So a city once powered by coal is now powered by wind. And all this creates hundreds of jobs.

Blyth exemplifies the promise of the clean energy revolution.

And the government wants to see this story of opportunity, growth and revitalized communities replicated across the UK, because ultimately our goal is to help people live better lives.

This is where my department comes in. We believe that green trade and investment will be the driving force that will help us create a better future, and I will give you three reasons:

First, we know that growing our green industries is key to achieving net zero.

Some people raise awareness of climate change by throwing soup on paintings in museums or sticking to the road. It’s not really my style.

In this room, we know that we can only fight climate change by using free trade and investment to accelerate green technological progress. And we have to do it in a way that doesn’t impoverish the UK.

Second, to protect our energy security, we must develop our own industries.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine made it clear that relying on authoritarian regimes can make it harder to heat our homes.

Our commercial relationships will help secure our energy supply. But it is long-term investments in nuclear and renewables that will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and lower consumption costs.

And third, as we see in Blyth, green trade and investment acts as sustainability by creating the jobs of tomorrow.

The jobs that will drive economic growth and keep communities alive.

And that economic angle is what I want to focus on today.

Like many governments around the world, we are facing slow growth. We have to find our way through it. Because we owe it to our children and grandchildren to build a better and more prosperous future.

Much of this growth will come from ideas developed by green industries. We know that companies that innovate grow faster than those that don’t. And the UK is fast becoming the green creative capital of the world.

Let me give you some examples:

Imagine hanging from ropes 40 meters above the North Sea, balancing on a wind turbine blade. It’s not only nerve-wracking, it’s also risky. But until recently, this was the only way for wind companies to identify and fix a technical fault.

That’s changing now after an engineer named Chris Cieslak first designed a robot in his garage.

His invention, BladeBUG, means that a person no longer always has to climb on the blade to identify a fault. And in some cases, BladeBUG can fix the defect as well. This improves safety and increases efficiency by keeping the turbines running. This is an idea that could benefit not only our own wind energy industry, but also that of other countries.

Steamology is a company that develops zero-emission hydrogen steam engines from its workshop in Salisbury. An innovation that will save rail and road operators from having to scrap valuable existing vehicles if they decarbonise, saving them money and avoiding waste.

And it’s getting safer for people to work in our offshore energy industry, thanks to innovations from Edinburgh-based company Zelim.

When someone falls overboard, every second counts, and Zelim’s AI-powered technology spots and tracks people in the water, then his unmanned boat rescues them.

All of these ventures have been supported by our offshore renewable energy catapult at Blyth.

There are so many other brilliant ideas like the ones you just heard about.

The challenge now is how to capitalize on them.

And we will do this by attracting the investments that will get these innovations off the ground and help companies export. Because it’s a virtuous circle: innovation needs investment to flourish, investment leads to exports, exports create growth and new jobs, and more innovation.

And if we are successful with our strategy, the impact could be transformational on places like Blyth and the rest of the country.

Our analysis shows that by the end of this decade, our green industries could create up to £170 billion in export sales.

And according to figures from the Office for National Statistics, by 2050 we could create 1.4 million green jobs across the UK. It’s one for every person in Birmingham.

As the Prime Minister said last week, green jobs are the jobs of the future.

But if we get the strategy wrong, we risk being left behind as other countries take advantage.

We must therefore act now and act quickly. Here’s how:

First, we focus on building our green industrial base.

Right now, we are creating a pipeline of brilliant opportunities for investors. In our UK Energy Security and Net Zero strategies, we have set out plans to generate £100bn of private sector investment in green industries, including offshore wind by 2030.

As you have already heard this morning, we have set ourselves the ambition of reaching up to 50GW of offshore wind capacity by the same date, more than enough to power every home in the UK.

Those of you who visited Teesside yesterday will see how we support the development of technologies such as carbon capture and storage, and low carbon hydrogen. And we are doing pioneering work in nuclear.

But it is not enough to create these opportunities, we must also inform investors.

So last year we launched our Investment Atlas, which showcases everything the UK has to offer…

Whether it’s supporting the North East of Scotland, becoming a global center for low-carbon hydrogen, or building a solar-powered electric vehicle charging network.

We bring people, companies and ideas together at events like this and at the Global Investment Summit we hosted last year.

The Office of Investment, run by my department, has also helped attract billions in clean technology investment.

He also recently helped the Qatar Investment Authority pump £85m into Rolls Royce’s small modular nuclear reactors, each of which can power a city the size of Leeds.

And UK Freeports, which I know are of particular interest to many of you here today, are rapidly becoming hubs for trade, investment and innovation.

We are also building a pro-ambition, pro-business environment in this country – a place where businesses can thrive and enjoy the stability and certainty for which we are known around the world.

With every idea, with every ambitious plan and with every city transformed, we prove to global investors that the path to a green and prosperous future starts here in the UK.

I am proud that my ministry is helping the world wake up to this message.

In just two years, DIT has helped secure nearly £20 billion in green investment globally, creating 11,300 jobs.

And companies here today, from Spain to South Korea, like SeAH Wind, JDR, Smulders and Siemens Gamesa, are among those supporting Britain and changing lives.

Besides growing our green industrial base, we also want to increase our exports.

There are some fantastic companies in this room already selling to the world, and I know there are more who want to join them.

Helping you do that is one of my biggest priorities as Secretary of State, so my department has set itself the goal of accelerating to £1 trillion in exports a year ahead of schedule.

We know that many companies that could export don’t, so our export strategy sets out our roadmap to get you there.

We are also very aware that businesses need money to grow. And my colleagues at UK Export Finance will help you get the loans and collateral you need.

Outside this building, you will see the world’s first hydrogen-powered double-decker bus, made by Wrightbus, a company from Ballymena in Northern Ireland.

Thanks to a guarantee from UK Export Finance, Wrightbus was able to access a £26 million facility from Barclays Bank.

This means that it will be able to export its vehicles all over the world, while supporting green jobs at home. And I was very impressed when I spoke to the team today – hope to see more of them across the country.

So we are sitting at what two centuries ago was the epicenter of the industrial revolution.

Just a mile from here, Robert and George Stephenson built some of the world’s first locomotives from their South Street workshop – the SpaceX of the 1820s. I’ve heard it’s now a concert hall for those in ‘among you who like this stuff – it’s not really me, but what you’ll see here today is that the talent for finding innovative solutions is very much alive and active in the North East because it was then, and not just the North East, but the United Kingdom.

So I hope the investors among you will learn what the green industries of this country have to offer. And companies will discover how my department can open up new markets for you. I look forward to working with all of you.


About Joan Dow

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