91 per cent growth for UK wind energy employment

RenewableUK, the country’s leading voice for the renewable energy industry, has published the most comprehensive ever employment figures for the wind energy industry, showing a 91 per cent increase in full-time employment in the sector between 2007/8 and 2009/10. The growth in employment stands in contrast to the overall UK employment level, which has shrunk during the same period by 3.4 per cent.

The study was jointly commissioned by RenewableUK and EU Skills, the Sector Skills Council for the Power Sector, from Warwick University’s Institute for Employment Research (IER) and Cambridge Econometrics.

The findings are based on primary data collected from 253 companies with business activities in the wind turbines and marine energy sectors. Of the 10,800 full-time-equivalent (FTE) employees working directly in the sectors, the majority, or 56 per cent, are associated with large-scale onshore wind (turbine output of over 100kW), followed by 29 per cent in offshore wind, whilst 7–8 per cent of the overall workforce is employed in small-scale wind turbines and around the same proportion in wave and tidal energy.

The report identifies 9,200 FTE employees as working in the large-scale wind energy power in 2009/10. A comparable study commissioned by RenewableUK from Bain & Company in 2008 recorded 4,800 FTE employees in the sector for the 2007/8 period.

Maria McCaffery MBE, Chief Executive of RenewableUK, comments: "Two conclusions from the results of this remarkable study are immediately obvious: this sector has withstood the negative GDP growth of the UK recession and bucked the overall employment trend in a spectacular way by a near doubling of the workforce."

"Furthermore, the increase in jobs has, to a large extent, mirrored the increase in electricity contributions from renewable sources, chiefly wind, to the grid. Latest statistics for Q3 2010 show the total share of renewable electricity at 8.6 per cent, divided in equal parts between wind (at around 4 per cent) and all other sources, compared to 2008, when the total share of electricity from wind power was around 2 per cent."

Announcements by the Government to continue with ports investments in last year’s Spending Review, followed by a host of inward investment decisions in the supply chain (including Siemens’ recent decision to locate major wind turbines manufacturing plant in the UK), stand to further advance employment in the sector in the coming years.

"It is now obvious that acting decisively on reducing carbon emissions and diversifying our energy supply will bring a double bonanza of increased green energy yields and economic growth."

"This study presents a compelling case for increasing our base of installed renewable energy devices. There is a clear link between sector activity and UK employment gains. Creating a policy framework that ensures that our wind power, wave energy and tidal resources are fully utilised will create jobs and stimulate economic activity at a time when we need it most," concludes McCaffery.

RenewableUK will unveil a second part of the report in its pre-Budget submission next month, which will include an analysis of potential UK employment in the sector by 2020 according to a range of industry development scenarios.