Britain’s onshore wind and solar sectors have seen big drops in employment since the controversial withdrawal of government support, according to new official data that unions branded “an appalling failure”.
The number of direct jobs in the onshore wind sector fell from 7,600 in 2015 to 5,500 in 2018, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS). Solar sector employment also dropped from 9,900 in 2015 to 6,600 in 2018.
The exclusion by the government of onshore wind and solar from the contract-for-difference support mechanism in 2015 is a long-standing grievance for many in the UK renewables sector.
Recent data from industry body RenewableUK showed English planners received just one new onshore wind application and approved three new turbines last year, in stark contrast with thriving activity levels in Scotland.
Offshore wind is the UK’s one renewables employment bright spot within the ONS figures, showing an increase in the number of full time employees from 3,100 in 2015 to 7,200 in 2018.
Britain’s low carbon and renewable energy economy grew by 4.7% to reach £46.7bn ($60.8bn) in 2018, according to the ONS. Overall the data recorded around 224,800 green jobs across the UK in 2018, compared to 219,000 the previous year.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) highlighted that while there had been a small increase in the numbers employed between 2017 and 2018, wider data showed there were still 11,100 fewer green jobs in 2018 compared to four years earlier.
The TUC branded the drop “an appalling failure” and said recent annual progress in creating green jobs is still far too slow. “This is a dreadful record,” said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.
“The climate emergency is a major threat to the living standards of British people, but we are making next to no progress in transforming our economy to safeguard our future.
“There should be a very good news story to tell. A path has been open to us for a long time now that’s full of opportunities to create good quality green jobs. No more excuses – the government must sit down with unions and businesses to plan a just transition to a fairer greener economy.”
Conservative prime minister Boris Johnson, who last month achieved a decisive general election victory, has promised to push ahead with the rapid decarbonisation of the UK economy in order to reach the 2050 net-zero carbon emissions goal put in place by his predecessor Theresa May.
A new report, unveiled last weekend by the International Renewable Energy Agency, showed that the global renewables industry could be providing more than 40 million jobs by 2050.