A report issued at the end of April has confirmed that the onshore wind industry in the UK contributed more than £900m to the country’s economy in 2014 and 27% went directly to the local communities in which the turbines were situated.
The report, compiled by BiGGAR Economics also showed that the industry’s contribution to the economy is increasing having risen by £358m in the two years from 2012. That is a rise of 65%. The report also confirmed that for each megawatt of installed onshore wind capacity more than £2m is contributed to the UK economy.
Also the amount of income going directly to local communities via community benefit schemes is also on the rise with 27% of all generated income from onshore turbines being redeployed into local communities via this method.
The report also confirmed that 48% of the total amount spent to develop and maintain a wind turbine is retained in the area in which it is located rising from 36% during construction to 58% during operation.
Commenting on the report Maria McCaffery chief executive of RenewableUK said “The British onshore wind energy industry is adding over £900 million a year to the national economy, so the benefits to the UK are clear to see.
“This report also shows that £7 of every £10 spent on onshore wind projects is invested here in the UK. Onshore wind powers local economies, bringing £199m of investment into the local communities that host wind farms and creating jobs across the supply chain.”
She added: “Onshore wind is already the lowest cost of all low carbon options and is set to become the least cost form of all electricity within the next five years. Despite these facts, onshore wind projects are under threat from misguided Tory and UKIP policies aimed at stifling their development, blatantly disregarding rational economic evidence and consistently high levels of public support.”
Recently the UK Conservative Party announced as part of its General Election manifesto it would effectively bring an end to the growth of the onshore wind industry by blocking all future projects in planning and ending subsides. The party claimed “lack of public support” as the main reason for their decision.
Also speaking of the report Ecotricity founder Dale Vince said: “Renewable UK have produced a very useful report, for the first time putting hard numbers on the local benefits that wind energy brings. This shows clearly that not only is wind power decentralised in terms of its location and connection to the grid, but its economic benefits are decentralised, too – they are shared in a way that we just don’t see in non-renewable technologies.”
“We won’t see fracking; for example, provide anything like 27% of its economic benefits to local communities. It’s another one of the wonderful things that wind energy brings – couple this with polls consistently showing its popularity among British people, and you have to wonder why on earth the Conservatives are intent on ending it.”
In related news jobs in the UK renewable energy industry are growing at a rate seven times faster than the country’s national average and in total more than 110,000 people are employed in the sector.
The figures, launched last week by the Renewable Energy Association show an increase of 9% in employment across all sectors of the industry in 2014. This compares with a national average of 1.2% over the same period.
Scotland, London, the East Midlands and the North West saw particularly high increases whilst the highest performing sector within the industry was biomass which saw employment rise by 17%.
Chief Executive of the Renewable Energy Association Dr. Nina Skorupska commenting on the figures said: “We are delighted to see such significant jobs growth across all technologies and industries in the renewable energy sector. This reflects greater confidence not only in the renewables market, but also the wider economy as a whole.
“Our industry offers a wealth of unique and exciting career opportunities and plays an essential part in ensuing that the UK meets its renewable energy targets.”
With the UK General Election taking place this week both the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties have pledged to continue to grow green jobs should either party win.
Dr Skorupska added: “It is of the upmost importance that renewable energy remains a priority for the incoming government.
“We look forward to working with the next government to ensure that even more is done to support our industry to ensure we can continue to create more skilled jobs and maintain the important growth seen over the last couple of years.”
At its current rate of growth UK onshore wind will soon be a £1billion industry, helping the economy grow as well as creating and sustaining jobs throughout the entire country. The technology is proven, getting cheaper, and as mentioned above will soon be the least expensive method of electricity generation in the UK.
Whoever emerges victorious at the General Election, whether it is with a majority or as part of a coalition, must take this into account when planning their environmental policies for the upcoming term. Anything less would be neglecting the needs and wants of the nation whilst wilfully making it more difficult to achieve our carbon reduction targets.