Speech Delivered at The Federation of Korean Industries, Seoul, Republic of Korea
It is half a century since South Korea turned to the United Kingdom to help develop its first ever car. That vehicle – the Hyundai Pony – was produced with the aid of a British chief executive, British parts, British engineers, and even British finance and of course, … Korean ingenuity and Korean hard work.
But no-one involved with that fledgling project could have imagined what it might lead to. Today, South Korea is the fifth largest automotive manufacturer in the world – and it all happened here.
And Hyundai’s new, electric Ioniq 5 is the current holder of the prestigious World Car of the Year award.
What an incredible catalyst that early collaboration between our two countries in the 1970s proved to be: the beginning of a success story that, 50 years later, goes from strength to strength. And 140 years after Britain and Korea first established diplomatic relations, our two countries are closer today than they have ever been in the past.
We have Korean students in our schools, Korean pop music in our charts – and, thanks to my teenage daughter, in my home – and Korean food shops on our high streets. And the reason I am here today is because we have incredible opportunities to work even more closer together.
On our energy transition, we can create the secure, clean and reliable power that both our economies need to grow. Through the UK-Korea framework, signed last June, both governments reaffirmed commitments to tackling climate change, and co-operating together to enhance energy security, particularly on renewables.
That’s why, as the new UK Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, I’m so excited to be in Korea this week, and why I’m delighted to be taking part in this fantastic seminar today.
Thank you representative HAN for inviting me.
Our two nations stand together as partners in the energy transition. But we also stand together in condemning Putin’s abhorrent war on Ukraine. The measures we are taking to isolate Russia internationally, punishing it economically, and helping Ukraine defend its sovereign territory.
But although Vladimir Putin’s weaponization of energy has had a huge impact on our markets over the past year, the truth is that Russia’s gas, just like the president himself, belongs firmly in the past.
And our discussions here today is about seizing the future, not retreating backwards. Our future in Britain will be built on renewables, nuclear power and greater energy efficiency, whilst ensuring that the gas used during the transition is from reliable sources – like our own North Sea.
With both our countries recognise the need to speed up the global energy transition to keep 1.5C alive. The IPPC’s Synthesis Report has emphasised the dire consequences should we fail to act.
So I would obviously urge South Korea to bring forward its coal phase-out from 2050, join the ‘Powering Past Coal Alliance’ and incorporate the COP26 ‘Global Coal to Clean Power’ statement into its energy planning.
The UK’s own ‘coal-to-clean’ story has been powered by offshore wind and we are eager to share expertise in this field with you. Electricity produced from coal in the UK has plummeted from 40% in 2012 to just 1.5% last year.
As a result, we are generating record amounts of electricity by wind – over half our total electricity comes from wind power on a good day.
The UK has established itself as a world leader in offshore wind. Our offshore capacity of 13.8GW is the greatest in Europe, and only second to China globally.
We have the three largest offshore farms in the world. Soon, we will have the fourth too. And we have globally-leading ambitions to deploy up to 50GW by 2030, which will include up to 5GW of floating wind platforms.
So we’re scaling-up renewables, and the development of a competitive domestic supply chain, that will meet our decarbonisation objectives. It will also make us more resilient to economic shocks and provide energy security for future generations.
And then there’s the economic opportunities that the transition to clean energy will bring. The tipping point, when holding on to coal and gas power will no longer make economic sense, never mind environmental sense is getting closer and closer.
So we are focused on leveraging private investment alongside the public investment needed to support our ambitions and deliver net zero.
But just as crucial as these domestic priorities we need to collaborate with key international partners too – and that means places like the Republic of Korea. We have so much to offer each other. I would strongly encourage companies which have invested in the offshore wind sector to consider coming to the UK.
In the UK, the Offshore Wind Manufacturing Investment Scheme has made funding available to boost investment in major port and manufacturing infrastructure.
One fantastic example this scheme has supported is a £512 million investment by Korean company SeAH Wind, a subsidiary of SeAH Steel whose CEO I am meeting this week, in a brand-new factory manufacturing offshore wind turbine monopile foundations in Teesside, England: a brilliant example of our two countries working together.
I hope this is just the first of many successful ventures between the UK and the Republic of Korea and I would encourage interested companies to contact the British Embassy here in Seoul to better understand how the UK Government can help further investments.
But the scope for collaboration goes beyond investment in the UK.
The UK is an ally in South Korea’s offshore wind development. You have set an impressive target of 12 GW offshore wind by 2030, with over 25 projects already in development.
This includes huge floating offshore wind potential, which is already attracting UK players to your emerging market. As that market grows, the UK can become an even more trusted partner.
Our expertise covers every phase of policy and project development. We have established experience in oil and gas, marine and subsea, and can offer a unique combination of assets and opportunities to build on current ties between our countries.
The British Embassy in Seoul is already starting this engagement, organising webinars to promote our offshore wind journey – and further areas of partnership. Indeed, UK companies represent 60% of Korean offshore wind engineering contracts.
I have been briefed on Corio Generation’s plan to build a 2.6GW floating wind portfolio of five projects, including working with Shell, on 1.5GW and 1.4GW of floating offshore wind in Ulsan.
BP Renewables and Deep Wind Offshore recently formed a joint venture to develop offshore wind in Korea, with four projects across the Korean peninsula with a potential generating capacity of up to 6 GW.
These examples show the value that the UK can bring to Korea – and what can be accomplished when we work side by side.
So, on this 140th anniversary of UK/Korea diplomatic relations and, as we approach the 50th anniversary of the iconic Hyundai Pony launch, let us look forward to future success.
A future of greater energy security. A future where clean renewables and nuclear power rapidly make fossil fuels obsolete. And a future of close, mutually-beneficial collaboration between Britain and Korea.
Working together, to power our success.
Sources: THX News, Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP