Government seeks overseas investment in net zero infrastructure

The government is seeking overseas investment in green industries, backed by a forthcoming global summit and a new advisory panel, while a minister has cast doubt on new nuclear projects.

Minister for investment Gerry Grimstone announced the establishment of the ‘Investment Council’ earlier this week, intended to advise the government on attracting foreign investment. It is composed of dozens of senior figures from the business community, all unpaid, including the chief executives of Severn Trent Water, the Macquarie Group and Scottish Power owner Iberdrola. The body will meet at least twice a year, operating alongside the Department for International Trade‘s recently formed Office for Investment.

Anja-Isabel Dotzenrath, CEO, RWE Renewables GmbH, said: ”I am delighted to be joining the UK Investment Council. The UK is one of the key strategic markets in which RWE is committed to expanding its renewables portfolio. Through our investments we are dedicated to helping the UK Government achieve its target to quadruple offshore wind capacity to 40 gigawatts by 2030.  The council will help create the right framework for sustainable investment.”

The prime minister and members of the royal family will also host a Global Investment Summit at Windsor Castle in October, which will “galvanise foreign investment in the UK’s green tech and renewable energy industries” ahead of the COP26 talks in Glasgow, according to a government statement.

In the meantime, Grimstone is in talks with some of the largest overseas pension schemes and sovereign wealth funds on investing in the likes of battery production facilities and offshore wind farms, he told the Financial Times. This includes Singapore’s Temasek and GIC funds, alongside Australian and Canadian pension schemes, which could invest alongside the new National Infrastructure Bank.

But the former chair of Standard Life Aberdeen admitted that the state-owned China General Nuclear Group may well not proceed at all. The government said it was considering replacing the firm’s stake in the Sizewell C and Bradwell B projects last September. It was blacklisted by the US a year earlier, alleging that it had stolen US nuclear technology for military use. In any case, tensions between China and the western powers are rising more generally.

“As ever with these things, the question will be as to whether it’s to our mutual advantage and whether there’s sufficient safeguards,” he added. “If you read the Energy White Paper before Christmas it’s by no means certain that this country is going to be building large nuclear power stations,” Grimstone said, mentioning the potential of small modular reactors.

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