The UK’s green economy grew by 18.7% between 2010 and 2014 to be worth £29 billion, according to government figures.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) data also showed that the environment sector had 373,500 full-time employees in 2014, an increase of 10.9% from 2010.
The value added to the economy from the production of renewable energy more than doubled from £2.2 billion to £4.5 billion in the same period.
Speaking to Clean Energy News, Richard Howard, head of energy and environment at think-tank Policy Exchange, said the figures were “positive” but called for the government to move away from considering the green economy as separate to the rest of the nation’s finances.
He said: “When we think about the green economy lots of people think it is separate and government support is there to push that particular part of the economy.
“We’d prefer to see something that says how green the economy is in general – that’s actually more interesting. The government shouldn’t be thinking of the green economy as a tangent to the rest of the economy.”
The ONS statistics, which run to 2014 when the most recent data are available, revealed that total economic output from the production of renewable energy more than doubled between 2010 and 2014, from £4.4 billion to £9.3 billion. In the same period, the amount of energy generated from renewables tripled from 25,783GWh to 54,584GWh.
The figures were welcomed by Kate Blagojevic, head of energy at Greenpeace UK, but she echoed recent criticism of the government’s withdrawal of subsidy mechanisms.
She said: “Severe government cuts since 2014 have led to thousands of job losses in the clean energy sector. It is even more concerning that the government intends to impose further constraints on thriving renewables through unsustainable hikes in business rates on solar, that risk decimating the industry just as it is on the cusp of becoming subsidy free.
Simon Bullock, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said recent policy reversals were causing “deep damage”, adding: “Renewable energy investment is predicted to fall by a catastrophic 95% between now and 2020. The Government needs to change course before it kills jobs and a great British economic success story.”
The ONS defined the green economy as energy saving and sustainability, environmental consultancy, environmental construction, environmental inspection and control and the production of industrial environmental equipment.