Amazon Web Services (AWS) has made a welcome announcement this week with the news of a significant investment in the UK over the next two years.

AWS announced it will “spend more than £1.8 billion in the next two years building and operating data centres in the UK in order to meet the growing needs of our customers and to help strengthen the UK’s digital infrastructure.”

It was back in 2016 that AWS opened its new London region in the United Kingdom, and AWS said this latest investment will more than double its investment in the region since that 2016 launch.

AWS London Region

“Over the last five years, we have been committed to investing in the UK to create the conditions for organisations in all industries to become global leaders in their use of technology,” said AWS. “In 2018, we added a third AZ to our London Region, allowing customers to architect highly scalable, fault-tolerant applications.”

AWS pointed out that it has also established edge locations across the UK which are connected to the AWS Region through the AWS network backbone, providing secure, low latency and high throughput network connectivity to organisations across the country.

“We are proud of the contributions we are making to the UK economy,” said Darren Hardman, VP & General Manager of AWS UK and Ireland.

“Looking ahead, we know that the UK remains full of opportunity and we continue to be excited by the potential to continue supporting our customers, partners, and citizens across the UK over the years to come,” said Hardman.

AWS cited Public First research that estimated that AWS is generating £8.7 billion in economic value for businesses across the country. This is apparently the equivalent of 0.4 percent of the UK’s GDP, more value than the Premier League or the music industry.

Skills investment

So to what areas will this new AWS investment go?

Most of the £1.8 billion investment will be spent on infrastructure (i.e. data centres). But the money will also be spent on renewable energy, as well as skills and training.

AWS said it has committed to investing hundreds of millions of pounds to provide free cloud computing skills training for 29 million people by 2025 – reaching people from all walks of life and all levels of technical knowledge, in more than 200 countries including the UK.

To this end, it has launched a number of learning and skills programmes in UK including AWS Educate, AWS Academy, and AWS re/Start.

“We first piloted AWS re/Start in the UK in 2017 as a way of building an inclusive, diverse global pipeline of new cloud talent and engaging individuals who otherwise might not have had access to this career path,” it said.

The programme is now available in 95 cities in 38 countries around the world (as at December 2021).

Renewable energy

On the green side of things, AWS said it remains committed to running its business in the most efficient and sustainable way possible.

In 2019, Amazon co-founded The Climate Pledge – a pledge to reach net-zero carbon emissions across our operations by 2040, 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement.

As part of this, AWS is committed to powering its operations with 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, and it claims it is on a path to achieving this by 2025, five years ahead of its original target.

Amazon said it is the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world.

In October 2021, Amazon’s first UK renewable energy project on the Kintyre Peninsula in Scotland became operational and started delivering renewable energy to the grid.

AWS said it purchases 100 percent of the power output from this wind farm, which is the first of five new, large-scale renewable energy projects in the UK enabled by Amazon and all built without public subsidy.

Together, these projects will provide a total capacity of 545MW of clean energy, the equivalent of powering 620,000 homes, and supporting both the UK and Scotland in meeting their 2030 renewable energy targets.

Last year, Amazon announced its largest renewable energy project in the UK to date: the Moray West Wind Farm located off the coast of Scotland.

Amazon will be the anchor and largest offtaker, contracting 350 MW of renewable energy. The project is expected to inject up to £500 million into the local Scottish economy throughout its lifespan, and during construction, will create and support more than 1,000 jobs in Scotland.

Ongoing investments

Amazon also pointed out that it has made direct investments in our UK operations of more than £32 billion since 2010.

This includes capital expenditure (infrastructure such as fulfilment centres, corporate offices and data centres), and operating expenditure (the jobs it creates in the UK).

Earlier this year AWS announced it had created a further 25,000 permanent roles across the UK in 2021, taking its total permanent workforce to more than 70,000 in London, Manchester, Edinburgh, and Cambridge.

Image credit: Amazon

“We will continue to push the boundaries of how technology – digital infrastructure and services – can help our customers and partners to innovate, scale, and grow, and we remain deeply committed to supporting the transformation of the UK’s digital economy,” AWS concluded.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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