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Nearly 126,000 people are currently employed across the United Kingdom's renewable energy industry, according to new figures from the country's Renewable Energy Association, but employment growth is slowing. 


Nearly 126,000 People Employed In UK Renewable Energy Industry

Nearly 126,000 people are currently employed across the United Kingdom’s renewable energy industry, according to new figures from the country’s Renewable Energy Association, but employment growth is slowing. 

Nearly 126,000 people are currently employed across the United Kingdom’s renewable energy industry, according to new figures from the country’s Renewable Energy Association, but employment growth is slowing.

The UK’s Renewable Energy Association (REA) published its REView 2017 report this week, the self-proclaimed “authoritative annual report of the UK renewable energy sector,” which lives up to its name. The report provides employment data from across the country’s renewable energy industry, including heat, power, and transport. The industry employed a record of 125,940 people in 2015/16, according to the report, growing by 2.5% from 2014/15, a significant and troubling decline in growth, down from two years previous when growth was at nearly 9%.

Other key highlights from the report include the first data compiled on employment in energy storage and electric vehicles, sectors which together employ 16,256 people. The UK renewable energy industry saw turnover of  £17.4bn in 2015/16, a growth of 3.5% over the previous year, and the number of companies currently involved in the sector fell by 5%, due primarily to the contraction of the solar PV market.

2016 was also the first year that the contribution from renewable energy to the total UK energy output plateaued. The REA remain tentatively confident that renewable electricity, heat, and transport all remain on track to complete the 15% renewable energy by 2020 target, but concede that “the UK’s growth trajectory to meet this ambition for the next 4 years remains very steep — and continues to be one of the highest of any EU member state.”

“It shows real progress that there were nearly 126,000 jobs in renewable energy in 2015/16,” explained Dr. Nina Skorupska CBE, Chief Executive of the Renewable Energy Association. “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.”

According to the REA, employment and turnover growth have both slowed due to numerous negative policy changes made by the government since the 2015 general election. Employment growth has been on the decline for several years, however: Between 2012/13 and 2013/14, jobs growth was 8.8%; and between 2013/14 and 2014/15, jobs growth was 4.2%. Among the many negative political moves made are cuts to the Feed-in Tariff, closing the Renewable Obligation to onshore wind and solar, reforming the Renewable Heat Incentive, removing the Levy Exemption Certificates, and cutting the Embedded Benefits program. Further, these policy moves are not fully realised in the 2015/16 data, and the REA predicts that 2016/17 job figures, turnover, and company number data will all be seriously impacted.

“The renewable energy sector is a large job creator for the UK and emerging economies alike, presenting significant opportunities for international trade,” said Baroness Verma, a former UK Energy Minister. “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.”

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