UK: Nearly 126,000 employed in thriving renewables industry, report shows

The U.K.’s renewable energy industry, including the heat, power, and transport sectors, employed a record 125,940 people in 2015/16, finds a report by the Renewable Energy Association (REA) REView 2017 drafted based on employment data from independent consultancy Innovas and investment data and analysis by KPMG, which has for the first time ever compiled the data on employment in energy storage and electric vehicle sectors that currently account for 16,256 jobs.

According to the report, employment growth rates have been shrinking in recent years: between 2012/13 and 2013/14 job growth was 8.8%, and between 2013/14 and 2014/15 job growth was 4.2%.

Noting that the industry turnover has been growing at an average rate of around 6% annually since 2012/13, the 2017 report found that the U.K. renewable energy industry has recorded a turnover of £17.4 billion in 2015/16, up by only 3.5% on the previous year.

Furthermore, the report highlights that the number of companies operating in renewable energy has fallen by 5%, largely due to a significant contraction in the solar PV market, as its turnover has fallen to 2011/12 levels.

The REA argues that employment and turnover growth has slowed significantly due to the more than 15 negative policy changes initiated by the government since the 2015 general election.

“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,” said Nina Skorupska CBE, chief executive of the REA.

Specifying the range of negative policy changes, REA points to cuts to the FIT, the closure of the Renewables Obligation Certificates to onshore wind and solar, a reform of the renewable heat incentive, the removal of Levy Exemption Certificates, and cuts to Embedded Benefits payments that 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.

Meanwhile, a separate report released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) released earlier this year shows at the global level a large increase in the number of employees in the renewable energy sectors, amounting to 9.8 million jobs.

“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 decentralized systems does not slip between our fingers,” Skorupska said.