Wind, wave and tidal employment soars in the UK

A report published last week by the industry trade body RenewableUK has revealed that the number of people employed in the United Kingdom’s wind, wave and tidal sectors has soared over the last three years.

The report, entitled ‘Working for a Green Britain and Northern Ireland’, is an update of a report previously produced in 2010. It was produced, jointly,  by RenewableUK and Energy & Utility Skills, and compiled by Cambridge Econometrics in partnership with IFF Research and the Warwick Institute for Employment Research.

The report has revealed a 74% increase in the number of people employed, both directly and indirectly, by the UK’s wind, wave and tidal sectors. The figure now stands at over 34,300. Directly the  three sectors employ 18,365 full time staff. 15,908 people are also in full time employment due indirectly to these sectors. Many of these staff work, for example, providing goods and services to the UK’s renewable industry in fields such as gearbox component manufacture. It is worth noting that 91% of the 34,300+ people employed due to the UK’s renewable industry are UK citizens. This demonstrates the importance of the renewables sector to creating jobs within the UK and belies many newspaper articles presenting the opinion that the use of renewable energy in the UK is only creating jobs abroad.

It is also worth making the point that many of these jobs have been created in areas of the UK which suffer from high unemployment. For instance the onshore wind sector is creating large amounts of jobs in the Scottish Highlands and Islands; areas of the UK in which unemployment of the UK has remained stubbornly high for many years but also contain some of the best renewable energy resources in Europe.

The geographic spread of the UK renewable energy industry’s job creation can also be seen in the growth of the offshore wind sector. The offshore wind sector has seen the highest level of job creation of any part of the energy industry. In three years the sector has doubled; from 3,151 full time employees to 6,830 full time employees.

Renewables are also helping to bring more women into the energy industry. Women make up 20% of full time employees in the renewable energy sector. This is proportionately higher than the UK’s energy industry as a whole. Renewables, therefore, can be seen to be bringing women into one of the country’s most important industries.

Another interesting point that the report raises is the number of small and medium enterprises which are involved in the UK’s renewable sector. More than 80% of the full time staff in the wind, wave and tidal sectors work for companies which have less than 250 employees. Furthermore 56% of these companies have less than 25 employees. Small and medium enterprises are at the heart of the UK’s renewable energy industry and have been a major factor in its growth. The renewable energy industry is a functioning example of the rhetoric deployed across the political spectrum; of an economy largely made and driven by flexible, dynamic small and medium companies.

Announcing the publication of the report RenewableUK’s Chief Executive Maria McCaffrey made the following statement:

“Today’s report clearly demonstrates how the wind, wave and tidal industries are creating jobs and growth for the economy. There are tens of thousands of people employed in skilled jobs the length and breadth of the country building a world-leading industry in the UK and providing clean, reliable energy.

“Industry and Government need to work side by side to back this workforce and the growth they generate. If the UK gets this right, our wind, wave and tidal industries could employ more than 70,000 people over the next decade. The offshore wind sector alone could be employing nearly 45,000 workers in the 2020s. As an industry we are truly creating jobs out of fresh air.

“The scale of the opportunity is massive, but success is not guaranteed. To really harness the economic benefits of our technologies we must ensure that there is certainty for industry. Certainty on future levels of deployment of wind, wave and tidal energy over the next decade will enable firms to invest in the right people and the right skills, and ensure we maximise the number of green collar jobs we create as we transform our electricity system. We want to ensure offshore wind is given the same opportunity to prosper as the North Sea oil and gas industries had in their heyday”.

It was also announced today that the World Energy Council considers the UK to have one of the sustainable national energy systems in the world.  The Council was announcing the establishment of a new ranking system for national energy systems. The UK was one of only five countries to obtain a triple-A rating; the other countries were Denmark, Spain, Switzerland and Sweden. The rankings are obtained by assessing the manner in which a country balances the three key issues involved in energy systems; energy security, environmental sustainability and energy equity.

The UK scored particularly highly in the environmental sustainability of its national energy system. The World Energy Council praised particularly the UK’s drive for wind energy, which is serving to create security of supply and to shield the UK from price fluctuation on the international gas markets. However the Council did note that perhaps more could be done to ensure closer partnerships between the public and private sectors.

These two pieces of news demonstrate that the UK’s renewable energy industry is not only creating tens of thousands of full time jobs across the country but is also gaining the country international praise for the direction in which it has taken it’s energy industry as a whole.

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