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South West may miss out on 20,000 jobs in green energy sector

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: March 16, 2013

By Phil Goodwin

wind turbine
Comments (12)

The South West could lose out on almost 20,000 new jobs in renewable energy unless growth accelerates in the sector, industry experts warn.

At present the region is on course to miss a key Government carbon emissions target to produce 15% of all energy from "clean" energy by 2020, a new report claims. As things stand, the total regional share is set to fall well short – reaching 9% by the end of the decade – and based on the current trajectory the existing total of 10,000 jobs will only see a modest rise to 15,500.

But if activity increases sufficiently to meet the UK-wide level, the number could climb to 34,000, Regen SW predicts, adding 18,500 skilled jobs to the struggling economy. The study comes just days after Western Power Distribution said the National Grid is close to capacity in parts of Devon and Cornwall, potentially making schemes "prohibitively" expensive.

Conservationists claim that large swathes of Devon and Cornwall are unsuitable for any development and say meeting the target locally could spell the widespread "destruction of the landscape".

Opponents also counter that more jobs could be lost in tourism if unsightly wind farms and hillsides plastered in solar panels drive visitors away.

Merlin Hyman, chief executive of Regen SW said: "This report shows we have made great progress in renewable energy in the past year, but we need to redouble our efforts if we are to make the most of the potential to create new jobs and thriving companies exporting their skills and expertise around the world.

"Renewable energy is a huge opportunity to generate the jobs and investment we need, but we must back key projects like offshore wind farms and put in place a framework to enable the sector to thrive."

The report Potential Energy – Potential Jobs: building a low carbon economy in south west England analyses progress in renewable energy technologies like wind, solar, marine and biomass. It will be formally launched at Renewable Energy Marketplace, the showcase event of the region's renewable energy and energy efficiency sector, in Exeter next Tuesday.

The so-called renewable "gold rush" has already pushed up the amount of electricity which can be generated by almost 60% during 2011/12 with potential output expected to jump by the same amount over the year to April.

Countryside campaigners who have been fighting a surge in plans to build wind turbines in sensitive areas say the target need not be met in the South West, provided the national mark is reached.

Bob Barfoot, North Devon chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said even huge offshore wind schemes, such as the Atlantic Array, would cause "massive impact " to the nearby Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

"We cannot meet these targets without destroying the landscape – in Devon 52% is designated for its scenic beauty and Cornwall has huge areas where we simply cannot put renewable developments," he added.

"This is a national target which does not take into account landscape designation or how various regions ought to implement it.

"We may create these jobs if we carpet the two counties with huge wind turbines and solar farms but our main economy here is tourism and people come for tranquillity and beautiful countryside."

The report calls for "clear, consistent and certain" national policy and backing for renewable energy by councils.

It wants much more investment in the local electricity grid to cope with decentralised energy and wants better engagement between local communities and developers.

Nicholas Ames, managing director of Supacat, which employs ten people on marine and offshore renewable projects, said increased support for the industry was "key to our future growth" and would help the company "grow significantly over the next few years".

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12 comments

  • johndavies  |  March 23 2013, 7:41PM

    If you want a job in the renewables industry…. MOVE – to China or India, that's where the jobs are. RenewableUK is the trade and professional body for the UK wind industries they state –"10,600 people work in the UK wind industry. That figure is expected to grow to 88,300 by 2021" So we are expected to believe an 8 fold increase in UK green jobs, but a quick look on the internet shows- all the major players in Europe & USA are sacking 1000s of people, (having normally received enormous grants & subsidies to set up) . While politicians are nieve enough to grasp any numbers (the bigger the better) in the hope it makes them look good in the eye of the voters, most people are sensible & when presented with the truth, laugh at these fairy dust figures. Here are the top 10 most ridiculous jobs the U.S. government considers "green," as confirmed by government officials: http://tinyurl.com/ajslx58 Is wind really the driver of sustainable jobs, or just a manner of impoverishing consumers for the years to come while developers and manufacturers flourish?

    |   1
  • Stork  |  March 17 2013, 4:50PM

    Boy, am I glad there's Global Warming. Otherwise these last few weeks would have been freezing ! I dread to see my central heating bill in the post.

    |   -7
  • Stork  |  March 17 2013, 4:49PM

    Boy, am I glad there's Global Warming. Otherwise these last few weeks would have been freezing ! I dread to see my central heating bill in the post.

    |   -3
  • PAWB46  |  March 16 2013, 7:56PM

    Surely you're not stupid enough to worry about the world getting warmer? And surely you don't trust politicians and their lackeys who are making money out of the climate change scam?

    |   -6
  • BobFromTruro  |  March 16 2013, 7:20PM

    Oh. Thanks for letting me know. Thank goodness I found out now before I wasted more time worrying about it. Incidentally since countless scientists working independently across the globe, with diverse interests and looking at different issues, have with near unanimity reached the opposite conclusion, you'd better tell them as well. And governments too across the world have established strategies such as FITs and ROCs which generate no revenue for the state and make little sense unless they believe there is global warming and a need to decarbonise - they must believe the science too or their conduct would be irrational. Please let them know urgently. Big business is wrong also - whether it's the insurers saying they need to model increased losses from the "natural" catastrophes becoming more common in a warmer world, to the big investment banks openly reviewing which global economies and sectors within economies are most vulnerable to the economic costs of global warming. The major military powers have been taken in too. From the US Pacific Commander identifying climate change as his major security threat to the Russian and Canadian navies investing to militarise the high North to defend sea routes and resources which would not exist without a warming climate reducing the scale and reach of sea ice. So many people, with so many agendas, all wrong - what a coincidence. Please tell them all.

    |   12
  • PAWB46  |  March 16 2013, 3:30PM

    There is no evidence that CO2 is causing the global temperature to rise - and there is nothing in physics to support such a hypothesis. The fact that we have had 16 years without any global warming, whilst CO2 levels have continued to rise, cannot be dismissed. We should be prepared for a Mini Ice Age, due to natural causes, with all the problems that will arise. Remember, warm is good, cold is bad.

    |   -8
  • BobFromTruro  |  March 16 2013, 2:38PM

    Increasing concentrations of CO2 are widely accepted to be having harmful effects, including by increasing the mean global temperature, and in such circumstances most would be happy to describe it as a "pollutant", but that is a matter of how you use the word. Your view of CO2 as essentially benign was examined in a recent meta-study of c.14,000 peer reviewed scientific papers published over the past two decades, and was supported by 0.17% of them. The other 99.83% were clear that our CO2 emissions are causing global warming. And global warming is far from benign in both the scale and nature of change it risks. Of course it would be more convenient and cheaper if we could pollute without economic, social, environmental or other consequence, but sadly not the case. And we should not be pushing the cost of our pollution on to others.

    |   12
  • PAWB46  |  March 16 2013, 1:05PM

    CO2 is not a pollutant, it is a natural gas in the atmosphere. It is a plant food and the more of it, the better that plants grow. If you want to green the planet, recycle the CO2 from fossil fuels into the atmosphere.

    |   -7
  • BobFromTruro  |  March 16 2013, 12:18PM

    The evidence (from DECC, IPPR and others) is that transitioning to a low carbon economy will lower our energy costs (against the alternative scenario of relying on imported fossil fuel), improve energy security and boost UK economic growth. We have an opportunity to grab more than our fair share of that in the SW given our resources, and the private sector needs that growth. Well done REGENSW for highlighting the issue in Budget week. The real energy subsidies are to the fossil fuel generators who have historically been allowed to pollute (with CO2) without paying for that pollution. The profits they make are private to them but the costs of the harm are borne by society at large. Understandable before we were aware of the horrendous damage and risks the pollution is bringing; unforgiveable now. Bring on properly-priced pollution, a level playing field and an energy revolution. With CO2 priced appropiately (CCC suggests min. £30/t in medium term) onshore renewables can thrive without price support/subsidies, but fossil fuels will not - we are simply transitioning our system to one where the cost of pollution is recognised - and in that system onshore renewables are the most cost effective source of energy. It is a shame that this transition is not being accomplished more quickly - something we will have to answer for to those of primary school age now who will have to live their adult lives through times of a rapidly warming planet and all the economic and human misery its risks bringing to them and others.

    |   2
  • BobFromTruro  |  March 16 2013, 12:17PM

    The evidence (from DECC, IPPR and others) is that transitioning to a low carbon economy will lower our energy costs (against the alternative scenario of relying on imported fossil fuel), improve energy security and boost UK economic growth. We have an opportunity to grab more than our fair share of that in the SW given our resources, and the private sector needs that growth. Well done REGENSW for highlighting the issue in Budget week. The real energy subsidies are to the fossil fuel generators who have historically been allowed to pollute (with CO2) without paying for that pollution. The profits they make are private to them but the costs of the harm are borne by society at large. Understandable before we were aware of the horrendous damage and risks the pollution is bringing; unforgiveable now. Bring on properly-priced pollution, a level playing field and an energy revolution. With CO2 priced appropiately (CCC suggests min. £30/t in medium term) onshore renewables can thrive without price support/subsidies, but fossil fuels will not - we are simply transitioning our system to one where the cost of pollution is recognised - and in that system onshore renewables are the most cost effective source of energy. It is a shame that this transition is not being accomplished more quickly - something we will have to answer for to those of primary school age now who will have to live their adult lives through times of a rapidly warming planet and all the economic and human misery its risks bringing to them and others.

    |   5

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