One in six renewable energy jobs in Scotland at risk

Businesses working in the Scottish renewable energy sector are anticipating a sixth of their workforce will be lost within the next 12 months, a new industry survey has shown.

Scottish Renewables polled its members on employment levels and confidence over the next year, with respondents predicting an average decrease in full-time equivalent posts in Scotland of 16.9%.

Jenny Hogan, Director of Policy at Scottish Renewables, said: “These results show that changes to and closures of support schemes are having an impact on our members and on the numbers of employees within their businesses.

“The UK Government is rightly excited about the economic opportunities presented by the impacts of the global shift to low-carbon energy, but it’s really important we don’t forget about the jobs in our renewable energy sector today.

“Onshore wind and solar are the two cheapest forms of electricity, but ministers are refusing to allow them to access long term contracts for power, which will result in a marked slowdown in investment and a decrease in employment, as our survey has suggested.”

Scottish Renewables’ Employment Trends and Business Confidence survey also asked respondents how they felt about the future of the renewables sector more generally over the coming 12 months. More than four in ten (41%) said they felt either quite or very negative, while the same number said they felt ‘neutral’ about the coming year.

Scottish Renewables Director of Policy, Ms Hogan said: “Renewables are the largest source of power in Scotland, providing enough energy to meet more than half of our electricity needs, and the sector currently employs around 21,000 people here.

“For Scotland’s renewable energy industry to continue providing jobs and ever-greater reductions in carbon emissions, government must act quickly to give companies the confidence they need to keep investing in our sector.”

Surprisingly, more respondents felt positive about the future of their own businesses over the next 12 months than felt negatively. Some 47% said they felt either very positive or quite positive, while 32% felt either very negative or quite negative. A fifth (20%) said they felt neutral.

Ms Hogan commented: “Obviously many businesses in our membership are worried about the future and the lack of a business case for investment in parts of our sector. However, it is also clear that firms are working hard to diversify in many different ways, for example opening up overseas markets and moving into new areas such as energy storage and low-carbon heat.

“I hope that government will see the sense in continuing to support investment in the technologies that have driven our sector’s growth over the last decade, while working with industry to grasp the opportunities for further growth over the next ten years.”

CASE STUDY: Wind turbine manufacturer and project developer ENERCON UK employs 155 people in Scotland but anticipates this number could fall by up to a third in the next 12 months, as staff move abroad to work in other countries where ENERCON is active.

Country Manager Richard Hatton said the primary reason for this potential decline was: “Government policy on onshore wind, leading to a much smaller market, reduced orders and a reduction in requirements for staff across the business.”

CASE STUDY: Wind turbine manufacturer Vestas employs 69 people in Scotland.

Sarah Merrick, Head of Public Affairs, UK and Ireland, said: “The UK onshore wind sector is currently in limbo. It is the cheapest source of new-build power, but yet cannot access the market.

“The UK Government’s policy is contradictory and looks set to achieve the exact opposite of what it says it wants to achieve: decarbonisation at the lowest cost.”

Due to the commercial sensitivities around the survey, evidence was collated anonymously.

One respondent said: “We had been very busy with renewable work for well over a decade. However this has dropped dramatically [since 2015]. We can’t see this changing any time soon, so we are actively seeking work in other areas.”

Another remarked: “We have little confidence in the Scottish renewables sector. We are seeking alternate sources of income outwith UK, but failing that we anticipate a material reduction in workforce.”

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