100,000 'work in renewables sector'

More than 100,000 people were employed in the renewable energy sector last year, according to a report by the industry.

A report says more than 100,000 people were employed in the renewable energy sector last year
A report says more than 100,000 people were employed in the renewable energy sector last year

The industry has attracted almost £30 billion in private sector investment since 2010 and is set for £64 billion of investment by the end of the decade, the review published by the Renewable Energy Association (REA) said.

More than £27 billion was invested in renewable electricity between 2010 and 2013, while £1.4 billion was invested in renewable heat technology and £700 million in biofuels for transport, a nalysis by consultants PwC found.

Renewable electricity generation has increased on average by 20% each year since 2009, the REA said.

If the policy framework remains supportive it is likely the Government's ambition for 30% of power to come from renewables by 2020 will be met, with major contributions from wind, biomass, energy from waste and solar.

But analysis by consultants Innovas revealed the dangers of policy changes, showing that at the height of the growth in small-scale solar power some 110,000 people were employed in the renewables sector.

Cuts to subsidies, known as feed-in tariffs, for small-scale solar electricity led to the loss of around 10,000 jobs, although the losses have been partially offset by the creation of around 4,000 jobs in the wind industry.

Growth in anaerobic digestion, which makes energy from products such as food waste, and renewable heating could boost job numbers to between 110,000 and 124,000 in three years, Innovas said.

REA chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska said: "This report highlights the close relationship between clear, stable policies and sustained growth and jobs in the renewable energy industry.

"The Government's renewable electricity policies have incentivised nearly £28 billion of private investment since 2010, achieving annual growth rates of over 20%.

"The world's first 'renewable heat incentive' is also beginning to spur positive growth in green heating. This is a tremendous success story."

But she added: "This positive message also comes with a warning. Drastic feed-in tariff cuts in 2011/12 led to widespread job losses in the solar industry and the continued policy uncertainty for renewable transport fuels has seen employment and investment opportunities in UK refineries go begging.

"Clear, stable policies create the investment, jobs and growth in renewables that the UK needs."

The report published by the REA showed that renewable heat generation has grown by 11% year-on-year between 2009 and 2012, but growth would need to accelerate up to 2020 to meet the Government's ambition to get 18% of heat from renewables, with most of that coming from biomass and heat pumps.

And it said biofuels had increased on average by 3.8% per year, although in some years consumption decreased, and without better policies the Government would miss its binding target to source 10% of transport fuels from renewables by 2020.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: "The UK is one of the world's most attractive places to invest in renewable energy.

"We expect our electricity market reforms to provide enough power for 10 million homes, give investors long term certainty, reduce carbon emissions and get the best deal for consumers."