Green jobs in the UK could surge by 85% over the next decade if supported by the right governmental policy, according to a new report from the Renewable Energy Association (REA).
This follows a period of slow growth in the industry, largely due to unfavourable policy such as the removal of the feed-in tariff for solar. This led to a slowdown in the industry that saw around 2,800 job losses in one year as the number of jobs in solar fell by 25.6% says the report.
During 2017/18, jobs in the energy sector only grew 1.5% compared to the previous year, with employment in the renewables and clean technology industry standing at 128,954.
This brought the market value of the sector to £18.8 billion in 2017/18, with 6,645 companies operating in renewables.
This slowdown follows research from other industry bodies such as trade union Prospect, which published a report in June 2019 suggesting that direct employment in renewable electricity in the UK had fallen by around 30% between 2015 and 2017.
It too highlighted that solar appeared to be the worst hit sector, with the number of jobs falling by over half. At the time, the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) refuted these figures, stating that in 2017 there were 400,000 green collar jobs.
While there have been some positive policy changes since that period, such as the introduction of the net zero by 2050 target and the Offshore Wind Sector Deal, there are a number of policy barriers that could still prevent the industry reaching its potential, the REA warned.
Despite this, employment could grow to 238,000 by 2030 if government policy were to change, which would include 46,000 jobs in the north of England, which is currently home to a number of carbon intensive job clusters.
Dr Nina Skorupska CBE, chief executive of the REA, said the report highlighted the “enormous opportunities” that renewables hold.
“One of the advantages of our industry is that it covers the lengths and breadths of the country, as such its benefit can be felt throughout the UK.
“With the government’s commitment to achieving net zero by 2050 we can see that there is political will, however, this needs to be backed up by policy for the renewable energy and clean technology sector. This report provides the government with that insight, and we are calling on them to deliver this urgently ahead of COP 26.”
In an effort to increase employment in the renewables and clean technology sectors, the REA report sets out 55 policies that it says would decarbonise heat, power, transport and preserve natural capital.
This includes improving the gender balance in the industry, as whilst there is a higher percentage of women in the renewables sector than oil and gas - around 37% compared to 22% - barriers still remain for women working in clean energy.
The report follows research by National Grid, released in January, that found that there will be 400,000 job opportunities provided by the energy transition, 100,000 of which will be in the north of England.
A BEIS spokesperson said: "A green economy and job creation go hand in hand. Since 1990 we have cut emissions by 43% while growing the economy by three quarters and we are investing £3 billion to help achieve our target of 2 million green-collar jobs by 2030.”