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Job growth in UK renewable energy industry 2015/16 could have been greater

The UK’s renewable energy industry, including heat, power, and transport, employed almost 126 000 people in 2015/16 according to a report published by the Renewable Energy Association (REA). However, renewable energy jobs growth could have been greater without “bonfire of the policies” which started in 2015 says REA.

Richard Lees, Project Manager BTS Biogas Ltd, here seen at the Ridge Road Farm, South Milford biomethane-to-grid plant commissioned during 2016 is one of almost 260 000 people employed in the UK renewable energy industry 2015/2016. Richard Lees, Project Manager BTS Biogas Ltd, here seen at the Ridge Road Farm, South Milford biomethane-to-grid plant commissioned during 2016 is one of almost 260 000 people employed in the UK renewable energy industry 2015/2016.

According to the publication REView 2017 released today, a record 125 940 people were employed in the growing renewables industry across renewable heat, power, and transport in the UK in 2015/16, but growth is slowing. The number of jobs grew by 2.5 percent between 2014/15 and 2015/16, a significant decline in growth from two years previous when growth was at nearly 9 percent.

REView is published by Renewable Energy Association (REA), the largest renewable energy and clean technology trade association in the UK and that represents renewable energy producers and promotes the use of all forms of renewable energy in the UK across power, heat, transport and recycling. The report uses employment data from independent consultancy Innovas and investment data and analysis by KPMG.

Key points raised in the REView 2017 publication include:

  • 125,940 jobs in renewable energy in 2015/16
  • For the first time data has been compiled on employment in energy storage and electric vehicles, clean tech sectors which employ 16,256 people
  • Renewable energy industry turnover of GBP 17.4 billion in 2015/16, a growth of 3.5 percent on the previous year
  • The number of companies operating in renewable energy, however, has fallen by 5 percent, largely due to a significant contraction in the solar PV market turnover in which has fallen to 2011/12 levels
  • The industry turnover has been growing at an average rate of around 6 percent annually since 2012/13

Negative policy changes affecting industry

REA argues that employment and turnover growth has slowed significantly due to the over 15 negative policy changes by the Government since the 2015 General Election. Employment growth rates have been shrinking in recent years. Between 2012/13 and 2013/14 jobs growth was 8.8 percent, and between 2013/14 and 2014/15 jobs growth was 4.2 percent.

We are once again pleased to launch REView, our authoritative annual report on the renewable energy industry. It shows real progress that there were nearly 126,000 jobs in renewable energy in 2015/16. This is in addition to over 16,000 in energy storage and in electric vehicles, which is the first year we have reported on these sectors. What is deeply frustrating is that this growth could have been greater. Policy instability in Westminster has slowed growth. Our member companies are helping build a system that is reliable, low-carbon and more affordable than the previous one. There’s fierce competition to be at the fore of these new technologies internationally. Government action is needed to ensure the opportunity to be leaders in technologies such as energy storage and decentralised systems does not slip between our fingers, commented Dr Nina Skorupska CBE, Chief Executive of REA.

REA also point out that the full brunt of range of negative policy changes, ranging from cuts to the Feed in Tariff (FIT), closure of the Renewables Obligation (RO) to onshore wind and solar, reform of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), removal of Levy Exemption Certificates, and cuts to Embedded Benefits payments are not fully reflected in this 2015/16 data. The REA anticipates these factors to also have a significantly negative impact on 2016/17 jobs, turnover, and company number data.

The renewable energy sector is a large job creator for the UK and emerging economies alike, presenting significant opportunities for international trade. Technology costs are falling and there are now also great advances in energy storage and electric vehicles. The incoming UK government must remain committed to supporting clean technology development and the renewable energy sector. They must remain absolutely in support of the Paris Accord and show leadership on the world stage. There must be no weakening of UK resolve by our politicians and we must show that unlike others when we make a commitment we stick to it, said Baroness Verma, former Energy Minister (Con) and Non-Executive Director of REA.


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