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Report on employment and skills in the UK renewable energy sector

New research by the REA and Innovas reveals that the UK’s £12.5 billion renewables industry supports 110,000 jobs across supply chain, and could support 400,000 by 2020.

Gregory Barker, Minister of State for Climate Change

‘Renewable Energy: Made in Britain,’ a new report from the Renewable Energy Association [1] and Innovas, was recently launched on the eve of the Clean Energy Ministerial Summit. REA and the report sponsors, including SummitSkills, heard from Energy Minister Greg Barker at the launch, which took place at the headquarters of Renewable Energy Systems.

This report marks the first time that the turnover and employment figures of the entire UK renewables sector have been quantified and brought together in one place. The report finds that in 2010/11, the UK renewables industry was worth £12.5 billion and supported 110,000 jobs, with 400,000 in total required to meet the 2020 renewables targets [2].

The report also reveals:
• The overall increase in market value from 2009/10 to 2010/11 was 11%; outstripping economic growth over the same period (1.4%) by a factor of eight
• Meeting renewable energy targets would displace fossil fuels with a cumulative value of £60 billion to 2020, giving a significant boost to the UK’s balance of trade

These findings come days after the European Commission identified the green economy as a ‘key sector’, offering ‘important job creation potential’, with renewables alone claimed to provide up to three million jobs across the EU to 2020 [3].

Friends of the Earth revealed results of a survey which found that “…85% of Brits would like to see the Government increasing the use of clean British energy and reducing the use of overseas gas.” [4]

Launching the report, REA Chief Executive Gaynor Hartnell said: “Harnessing our renewables creates employment and means that rather than spending money on energy imports we can keep it circulating in the UK economy. Government needs to take steps to build the skills base and keep the UK on track to meet its renewables targets. When it comes to the employment, economic and energy challenges we face, the answer is clear; make it renewable and make it in Britain.”

Gregory Barker, Minister of State for Climate Change (pictured), added: “Renewable energy not only provides us with clean and secure energy that cuts our reliance on imported fossil fuels, it generates billions of pounds of investment and potentially hundreds and thousands of jobs and is a key growth sector for the UK economy.

“The REA’s report sets out plainly the opportunities and challenges in this area. We are determined to seize the momentum and secure maximum benefit for the UK.”

Will Hutton, former Editor-In-Chief of the Observer and Principal of Hertford College, Oxford, said in the report’s foreword: “There is another revolution in the making: come what may business and society need diverse and resilient sources of energy that are independent from the political and geological vagaries of fossil fuels.”

Tim Yeo, REA President and Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee’s 2009 inquiry into ‘Green Jobs and Skills,’ said: “The growth of the renewable energy industry is a really positive story for the UK and this report provides a great synopsis of our current position and the opportunities for the future. The Government must lead the way with a clearer and more systematic approach to developing the skills required to ensure a shortage does not derail the industry’s continued expansion.”

John Cridland, Director-General of the Confederation of British Industries, said: “Renewables will play a key role in the development of the low-carbon economy, helping to diversify the UK energy mix whilst also providing opportunities for economic growth and new jobs.”

Frances O’Grady, Deputy General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, commented: “This report makes the strongest case yet to show that green opportunities, and the jobs the sector has the potential to create, can provide decent, highly skilled employment to people whose jobs are being lost as a result of changes in the global economy. The Government’s green challenge is now to do all it can to create the investment climate to generate the green jobs we need to meet our 2020 target.”

Keith Marshall OBE, Chief Executive of SummitSkills, one of the report’s sponsors, said:
“High quality skills are essential to making the growth of renewable energy a reality. The skills system is ready to respond. We just need the policy landscape completely joined up to drive demand for investment in training and upskilling. This report provides an essential building block to make this happen and we are pleased to be one of the sponsors.”

Crisis – or opportunity?
This report makes it clear that the UK is facing challenges on several fronts, but that taking a ‘joined-up’ approach, which treats all of these problems together, will create the single most important economic opportunity of this generation.

While the Government has shown strong leadership and made great strides in offshore wind and marine renewables, a framework is required that ensures link-up between all relevant departments to capitalise on the full range of benefits offered by renewables. This could be achieved by relaunching the Office for Renewable Energy Deployment, currently housed within DECC, as a cross-departmental office chaired by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

Additional recommendations, outlined in full on page 8 of the report, include:
• The appointment of a BIS Minister with a renewable energy remit
• The recording of employment figures in renewables by the Office for National Statistics
• The routine assessment of the economic benefits of renewable energy by HMT
• The publication of a national strategy for renewable energy skills
This final point is crucial, as the skills ‘time bomb’ is both a major obstacle to achieving the green growth vision, and also a major opportunity for putting disillusioned graduates, the unemployed, and those in low paid work into high value careers.

Analysis shows that meeting renewable energy targets would displace fossil fuels with a value of £11 billion in 2020 (£60 billion cumulatively to 2020). Failure to meet targets would see most of this money leave the UK economy through imports of oil, gas and coal – money better invested in supporting domestic growth in domestic jobs.

The report also exposes the portrayal of renewable energy as being excessively subsidised in comparison with other energy sources as utterly wrong. Analysis from the International Energy Agency shows that globally renewables receive just one sixth of the subsidy of fossil fuels, while analysis from Ofgem and the Committee on Climate Change reveals that renewable energy policies have only added a fraction to energy bills compared to increases caused by spiking wholesale gas prices.

The report includes a regional breakdown that shows that the employment and economic opportunities are widely distributed across the country. It sets out over 30 case studies of UK innovation and manufacturing across over 15 technologies including:
• Highly competitive manufacturing innovation in solar thermal
• Biofuels produced from waste
• The deepest onshore wells ever to be drilled in the UK for the first deep geothermal power plant
• The use of biomass heat to green Scotland's whisky industry and stabilise energy bills
• Pyrolysis and gasification producing clean synthetic gas from old tyres and hazardous waste
• Green gas for truckers filling up on the M6;
• Remanufacturing of Chinese solar cells into innovative building-integrated products
• World-leading device innovation in marine energy systems
• A start-up company that’s reached £25 million turnover in just five years

These innovations show that UK innovators are ready to ‘step up to the plate’, and give a taste of what is possible with the right Government supporting framework.

Words of welcome from the report’s other sponsors
Gearoid Lane, Managing Director of British Gas New Energy, said: “This report shows the impact renewable energy can have in the economic wellbeing of Britain. Renewable technology makes sense for households giving them access to cheaper and cleaner energy sources. It also makes sense for Britain by creating much needed skilled jobs. We’re playing our part by setting-up our own green skills training centre in Wales and investing in businesses developing renewable energy technology.”

John Adkins, Group MD of Myriad CEG, said: “This excellent report clearly shows that with a bit more long-term, joined-up thinking from Government the renewable energy sector can reach its true potential, as both a driver of employment and economic growth.”

1. The Renewable Energy Association represents renewable energy producers and promotes the use of all forms of renewable energy in the UK across power, heat, transport and renewable gas. It is the largest renewable trade association in the UK, with 960 members, ranging from major multinationals to sole traders.
2. The EU Renewable Energy Directive requires the UK to meet 15% of its overall energy demand from renewables by 2020. This includes a requirement to meet 10% of transport demand from renewable sources. The UK intends to meet the remainder of the target by meeting 12% of heat demand and 30% of electricity demand from renewables by 2020, according to DECC’s 2009 Renewable Energy Strategy.
3. European Commission: ‘Towards a job-rich recovery,’ 18th April 2012. Available at:
4. Friends of the Earth: ‘85 per cent of public support clean British energy - new poll,’ 23rd April 2012. Available at:

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