The number of jobs in renewable electricity, including bioenergy, fell by around 30 per cent between 2014 and 2017, according to a paper published by the Prospect union.
The briefing paper also highlights concerns surrounding the quality of some of the jobs available in the renewable sectors and says a “private sector-led” approach to renewables policy has led to a lower volume of projects.
The report says there are two main factors as to why the sector has not seen the anticipated growth in green jobs which was forecast a decade ago – a lower volume of projects and a lower share of renewables value.
It argues that successive UK governments have taken a market-led approach to energy policy “more broadly” which in practice has meant using “generous subsidy regimes” to attract private capital into the sector and to minimise the use of government funds to support the deployment of renewables.
This subsidy regime, the report adds, has proved to be an “expensive way to procure renewables capacity”.
Furthermore, it says, the decision to close key subsidy schemes such as the Renewables Obligation (which was closed to new generating capacity in 2017) and the feed-in tariff had an “immediate negative effect” on employment in the solar industry in particular, with PwC estimating 12,000 job losses in the 12 months following the announcement of subsidy cuts.
The report added that along with tighter planning rules which made deploying new onshore wind projects in England and Wales “extremely difficult”, these policy decisions had a “disastrous effect” on new renewables deployment.
It concludes by calling for the government to take a more active and interventionalist role in the sector and makes the case for a state-supported renewables developer. It also calls for more “effective and equitable” use of public money.
In response to the report the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said the number of “green collar” jobs has actually increased and more will be created thanks to the new offshore wind sector deal launched in March.
The deal includes a target to nearly quadruple the number of “green collar” jobs in the offshore wind industry from 7,200 today to 27,000 by 2030, of whom at least one-third should be women.
A spokesperson said: “We’ve actually seen the number of green collar jobs soar to approximately 400,000, with clean growth at the heart of this government’s modern Industrial Strategy. This figure could more than quadruple to two million by 2030.
“We’ve injected £2.5 billion into low-carbon innovation and earlier this year struck a deal with the offshore wind industry which will see up to £40 billion worth on infrastructure investment in the UK, creating clean, green electricity, good jobs and sustained growth across the UK.”
Meanwhile Renewable UK’s head of external affairs, Luke Clark, said: “We’re expecting the number of direct jobs in offshore wind to treble to 27,000 by 2030, as part of the landmark offshore wind sector deal we’ve agreed with government, as this provides long-term certainty for the industry.
“However, as onshore wind remains excluded from government-backed auctions for contracts to generate power, the UK is missing out on employment and investment opportunities offered by this technology.
“The auction process has also failed to bring forward new technologies like tidal energy projects, so there is huge potential to ramp up employment in renewables as we move to net zero emissions.”