UK: despite record growth, 'sudden and severe' policy changes harming renewable sector, report finds

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REView 2016, this year’s snapshot report of the U.K.’s renewable energy sector published by the Renewable Energy Association (REA) has found that record levels of employment in the sector could be undermined by continued policy interference from government.

The report suggests that multiple "sudden and severe" policy interventions over the past 12 months by the U.K. government have harmed the country’s position as a global leader in renewables, and will serve to slow the growth rates achieved over the past 24 months.

The REA suggests that these recent roll-backs – which included the controversial early closure of the Renewable Obligation (RO) scheme for large-scale solar, as well as severe cuts to the PV FIT – will mean the U.K. is unlikely to hit its legally binding 2020 renewable energy targets.

Nina Skorupska, the chief executive of the REA, said that although 2015 was another record year for British renewables, the industry was "blindsided" with over a dozen sudden policy changes. "We expect the impact of these changes to be reflected in next year’s report," she said.

"While many businesses have been left reeling and deployment has begun to slow, as an industry we will persevere, we will innovate, and we will continue to grow."

Some key findings from the report show that the total sector market value last year was £15,913 million ($23,208 million), which was an increase of more than $1 billion in the space of a year – a growth rate of more than 6.6%. The rest of the U.K. economy, in contrast, grew 2.5% during that period.

The REView 2016 report – published in association with Innovas and KPMG – also revealed that the renewables sector in Britain now employs 116,788 people, an annual increase of 4,760 jobs. The sector now provides the U.K. with 22.3% of its power, 4.6% of its heat, and 3.2% of its transport fuels.

Further, the report anticipates the impending growth of both grid-scale and behind-the-meter storage systems, a wider adoption of electric vehicles and continued transition in the clean energy investment landscape.

"It has been a turbulent year for the renewables sector," concluded KPMG’s chair of energy Simon Virley. "But the falling costs of technologies, like solar and storage, mean that exciting business opportunities lie ahead and the sector as a whole can start to move beyond subsidy."