By threatening wind energy, Tories risk nearly 100,000 jobs


by Guest    
9:46 am - November 2nd 2012

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contribution by Philip Pearson

“If we are to inject confidence into the economy, we need stability. Investors demand it,” Lord Heseltine said this week: “For the country’s energy needs to be met, the Government needs a clear and consistent long term energy policy that indicates what our projected needs will be and how they will be met, by when and by whom.”

Stability? The coalition threw the solar power industry, mishandling its feed in tariff, risking 20,000 jobs. The installation industry predicts 16,000 job losses as government schemes were cut. Now, the Energy Minister has rocked the wind power industry. But what about the industry’s 5,490 companies and their employees?

Wind turbine industry 2010-2011

Sales 2010-2011

Sales growth, %

No. Companies

Employees

Large wind turbines

£4.4bn

3.6%

1,674

31,064

Small wind turbines

£3.9bn

3.2%

1,618

24,866

Totals

£8.3bn

3,292

55,930

(Source: Low carbon environmental goods and services 2010-2011, BIS, May 2012.)

The wind industry was worth £14bn in sales in 2010-2011, a 7.2% growth rate on the previous year. The latest BIS report on the green economy shows that the sector’s 5,490 companies employ 94,157 staff. Job numbers grew by 3.2% in 2010-2011.

As Lord Heseltine rightly pointed out, renewable energy employment is well distributed across the UK and contributes to greater equality of regional growth. “During a trip to the Humber I heard from everyone I met the importance to the region of investment in offshore wind.”

Wind exports were worth £17bn, or over a tenth of the entire export value of the UK’s low carbon industries and services. Key export markets include China, Malaysia and South Korea. Sales are forecast to increase by an average of 7% annually through to 2015.

Onshore wind is one of the cheapest low carbon energy technologies. Secure, proven and quick-to-build, it is essential in meeting our renewable energy targets and carbon reduction objectives cost-effectively. Onshore wind now contributes over 27% of renewable power generation.

In May 2011 Charles Hendry MP, the former Minister for Energy and Climate Change officially opened Mabey Bridge’s £38 million state-of-the-art wind turbine tower manufacturing facility in Chepstow. The company funded the investment in full and has created 197 skilled jobs in the South Wales region to date.

Hendry said renewables were critical to the UK’s future energy security and that it was essential for ministers to maintain “constructive engagement” with the industry.

But Cameron suggested that a review of local communities’ acceptance of windfarms, which includes the cost of the technology, could trigger a rethink of government support once the 2020 target was met. In investment terms 2020 is the short term for multi-million projects.

A better idea would have been for the PM to declare an extension of our renewable energy targets to 2030, including a carbon target for the delayed Energy Bill. This “policy stabiliser” will unloock investment in the big wind manufacturing jobs in the North East and elsewhere.

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Reader comments


This is one of those pivotal issues where Labour could benefit by having clear policy differences from the coalition. The opposition to everything except the expansion of fossil fuel use by vested interests and their righty sock puppets and astroturfers is plain. The big 6 energy suppliers are even using the small cost of investing in sustainable energy as a smokescreen for profiteering, with the additional benefit that they discredit sustainable energy in the public eye.

That someone so central to Thatcher’s reign can now be so critical of the Coalition surely demonstrates how bad conservative politics has become.

If it’s all so cheap, why should any government be giving taxpayers money to big business? Does it depend on how friendly the companies are?

Also, it drives people into fuel poverty. Which is more important to us; creating fuel poverty by subsidising big business, or protecting the poor?

3. Dick the Prick

I object to heroin being illegal, this coalition risks the opportunities of 100,000 small businessmen.

4. Chaise Guevara

@ 3 Dick the Prick

“I object to heroin being illegal, this coalition risks the opportunities of 100,000 small businessmen.”

Yeah, because heroin and sustainable power are totally analogous. *rolls eyes*

5. Chaise Guevara

@ 3

…And FYI, legalising heroin would not legitimise current drug dealers, which is who I assume you’re referring to. They wouldn’t be licensed to trade, and street product would inevitably fall foul of legal standards anyway.

6. Dick the Prick

@Chaise – yeah, twas blatantly absurd but somehow I feel as though i’m getting wined and dined straight into nuclear because wind will be too expensive and unable to offer security. I just have an absolute, probably irrational and deeply held antagonism against nuclear and if poor people can’t afford wind and coal is banned, well, it’s just depressing. I’d rather live 20 miles from a coal fired station than a nuke. It’s a fake market and sure 100,000 jobs isn’t to be sneered at but it doesn’t alter the economics – someone’s getting ripped off.

“I’d rather live 20 miles from a coal fired station than a nuke. ”

An admission of your complete ignorance. You could have found the facts with a simple web search but instead decided to give us the benefit of your fact-free opinions. Idiot.

8. Chaise Guevara

@ 6 Dick the Prick

You seem aware that your antipathy towards nuclear is something akin to a personal phobia, which surely you admit is no reason for the rest of us to reject it as an option?

As for “getting ripped off”, that only applies if you decide that monetary gain (and short-term gain at that) is the only factor worth talking about. Whereas the whole point of renewables is to seek non-monetary benefits and to head off long-term problems when fossil resources run out.

9. Dick the Prick

@ Chaise – Well, it’s done anyway. EDF and Hitachi are signed up so I guess the only argument left is fraking and golly gee wizz, how’s that gonna go? It seems strange how we quite happily wander over to the Mid East or the Falklands for big oil but any suggestion of alleviating fuel poverty is politically irrelevant with a good dose of hand wringing. Sure, it’s the world’s biggest industry but a rip off is a rip off whatever its long term objective.

@7 – Isn’t the full cost of nuclear err.. unknown decommissioning and coping with unknown catastrophes which google doesn’t seem to have a balance sheet on when Gloucestershire is quaranteened. Chuck in the potential terrorist, cock up, earthquake and quite right oh winged Oracle.

10. gastro george

Nuclear is “To Big To Fail” banks writ large.

11. Chaise Guevara

@ 9 Dick the Prick

Like I said, it’s not a rip-off by my value system. Maybe it is by yours. Either way, it’s clear that saying “a rip-off is a rip-off” isn’t at all helpful (the clue’s in the redundancy) when we measure value in different ways. I for one am prepared to take a shared financial hit now to a) improve the environment and b) prevent chaos, famine, war and other horrors when we run out of gas.

12. Dick the Prick

@Chaise – fair play. It really is quite expensive though with the Danes and the Germans even with their exploitation of technology early on paying a damn sight more than we do. Green is cool, green is noble but costs are relevant somewhere – and if the subsidies were taken away (curiously vetoed as regards new nukes) then it’d be finished.

I’d even subsidise some forms of energy efficiency measures but wind and solar – no, not so much. If they reckon, as they always claim, the only way is ‘up’ for fossil fuel prices, they don’t need subsidies at all just patience until the market balances.

(incidentally, there are wind schemes in the Orkneys that claim >50% load factor, in which case they may be economic already – in which case, good luck!)

Respect though. As Cherub rightly called, my views aren’t just costed, paper based calculations but a fair amount of fear and loathing. My greatest concern about wind farms was always dead birds and since that’s been proven to be minimal, cool beans – I kinda think they look cool and surely they can be dismantled at any time; not like building a bloody motorway is it?

13. Chaise Guevara

@ 12 Dick

Cool – you seem to have quite a reasonable and moderate outlook here. Regarding energy efficiency schemes, one that I definitely approve of standardising is home insulation. There are so many reasons that people might not do it themselves (lack of capital, the fact that the property is rented, etc.) and it’s really worthwhile long-term.

14. Derek Hattons Tailor

That’s like saying that amazon “create” jobs through online book sales while high street booksellers go out of business.
The additional renewable energy jobs are effectively subsidized through higher power bills. Money that would otherwise be spent elsewhere in the economy. Hence effect on gross employment is zero.

15. Dick the Prick

@14 – I think if you mention Shale gas being cheap, fantastically abundant, efficient and able to use the mothballed network of gas fired grids already built on this site you may get lynched. Osborne announcing tax breaks is perhaps the finest act of his chancellery (tough competition there?!?). If we have expensive energy, the liklihood of it destroying any remaining industry or, frankly, commerce in general seems abstract for the price of a bit of real estate and earthquakes around the North West – I dunno – probably less than a couple £trillion if geological blight can remain focussed around the Irish Sea and North Wales / South Cumbria.

With the Ruskies & the Yanks hammering shale, it’s really just a matter of time before governmental intransigence on new nukes gives rise to no alternative – hell, it’s almost as if this were planned! Be great for Liverpool though – geez, we really have been very lucky with our geology.

16. Derek Hattons Tailor

That wasn’t my point – it could be spend on anything, maybe energy, maybe not. Maybe to pay some bloke to collect wood for the wood burner I buy, maybe to go down the pub, it doesn’t matter in terms of creating jobs. There are arguments for and against “green” energy, but creating jobs isn’t one of them.

17. Dick the Prick

All governments subsidize jobs, it’s just a matter of degrees and to whom.

http://www.cityunslicker.com/2012/01/read-this-and-rejoice-for-uk-shale-gas.html

@15. Dick the Prick: “…if geological blight can remain focussed around the Irish Sea and North Wales / South Cumbria.”

Are you referring to the potentially leaning tower of Blackpool?

For the uninformed who have not been exposed to the delights of the Fylde coast, Blackpool tower is half the height of the Eiffel.

I dunno what they did in the tower’s foundations but it has survived a few earth tremors. Blackpool Tower has footings in sand and abides in salty air. The blokes who designed it were smart.

19. Derek Hattons Tailor

@ 17 Exactly my point. All government can do is change the identity of winners/losers by moving subsidies around. By the same logic building/not building more nuclear power stations creates/threatens jobs.

20. Chaise Guevara

“I dunno what they did in the tower’s foundations but it has survived a few earth tremors. Blackpool Tower has footings in sand and abides in salty air. The blokes who designed it were smart.”

It’s a folly. Those aren’t usually associated with smartness.

(Although, yeah, a relatively light structure with all its weight at the bottom will survive earthquakes. Who’da thunk?)

21. Chaise Guevara

@ Derek Hattons Tailor

You’re absolutely right on the general principle of your argument here, but odds are that the government aren’t saving this money to reinvest it, they’re saving it to avoid spending it in any capacity. And that does cost jobs, obviously.

Couldn’t come at a better time. Millions of ash trees are going to die of Chalara fraxinea in the next few years if authoritative sources are correct. Consequently, millions of ash trees are going to require felling, and it would make absolute sense to chop them up and turn them into charcoal, which would not only sterilise them but provide tens of thousands of tons of an almost smoke-free fuel. That would keep a lot of people busy, as well as enabling a lot of townies to get in touch with the natural world.

One simple question. How much of the wind turbines are actually made in the UK. As far as I can gather, very few. Most are made by foreign companies. The only employment in the UK is from the installation.

@23. SadButMadLad: “One simple question. How much of the wind turbines are actually made in the UK. As far as I can gather, very few.”

My understanding is that design and manufacturing requires commonplace skills found at companies that service aircraft and motor sport engineering. There is some clever stuff in the power management systems, probably unique to wind turbines, that has to be licensed or purchased as a black box. That is probably where the money is to be made.

There is another way of looking at this. You say cutting wind energy means 100,000 jobs lost. I say cutting wind energy means 100,000 people able to enter industries that don’t need subsidies to survive.

The problem with wind is that as a customer you pay for the people and the windmills, then as the public and customer you have to pay for a subsidy to keep the entire industry going. Sounds like quite a waste of money.

The next thing I am going to say will probably attract howls of protest from people on this site, but here it goes. We should take all of this money and invest it in nuclear power. Out of all key energy sectors nuclear comes out top. Coal – terrible as we all know, horrible for health, even worse for the environment. Oil – Still pretty dirty, becoming more expensive, large dependancy on foreign countries. Gas – this is pretty good actually, has far less pollutants than oil and the UK is sitting on top of a lot of it. I would support the use of gas energy as an immediate solution so that all coal and Oil could be shut down in the coming 5 years. Nuclear – actually very safe, big capital costs but very long life, no pollution when managed properly (just look at France). Wind – Expensive, unsightly, low energy output, more damaging to the environment than we first realised.

http://www-958.ibm.com/software/data/cognos/manyeyes/visualizations/2e5d4dcc4fb511e0ae0c000255111976/comments/2e70ae944fb511e0ae0c000255111976

Interesting study into the ‘danger’ of nuclear power which is actually quite low. Yes it needs to be regulated properly. Chernobyl was human stupidity without computer fail safes, Fukushima was built next to a tsunami shoreline.

Of course I would love to suggest Hydro as it really is a win-win, but we don’t exactly have the mountains for hydro.

26. Chaise Guevara

@ 25 Freeman

“I say cutting wind energy means 100,000 people able to enter industries that don’t need subsidies to survive. ”

Are you saying that the government is going to subsidise an extra 100,000 jobs in other areas of the energy sector to make up for this move?

If so, do you have a source?

100,000 jobs seems incredibly high, that’s more or less the size of the British Army. I wonder how many of those jobs are in companies with contracts involving wind turbines but that are not dependent on them such as offshore support companies that mainly work on North Sea rigs but have small contracts involving offshore wind turbines.
For example, Bond helicopters employs 4 or 5 people to provide support to an offshore wind farm but that doesn’t mean the other 700 jobs with the company are at risk. (Although, to be fair, since the farm is already built those jobs probably wouldn’t be lost anyway, another contentious point with the figures)
I’m not taking issue with the general points of the article, which I agree with, just the figures.

@26. Chaise Guevara

No. Sorry let me clarify. I am saying that those 100k of people need to go into industries that don’t require subsidies. Industries that are self sustaining and don’t need to resort to subsidies.

Subsidies have never ultimately worked. They usually land up with gross market distortions that land up harming the consumers in the end.

29. Chaise Guevara

@ 28 Freeman

“Subsidies have never ultimately worked. ”

I suspect we’re gonna end up in a disgreement over either the word “subsidy” or “worked”, but take healthcare. I’m guessing you’re not a fan of the NHS, but you can’t deny that it functions, and we end up getting much cheaper treatment at point of service than many in the US as a result (£7-odd quid vs taking a second job).

And what about the services that we’re so used to being subsidised that we often don’t think of them as markets any more, like education, roads, police? Would you really see subsidies removed there?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Jason Brickley

    By threatening wind energy, Tories risk nearly 100,000 jobs http://t.co/wZcRi5zJ

  2. Northern TUC

    A great article at @libcon by @greenunions on why Conservative threats to wind energy risk 100k jobs http://t.co/dClx7vnR

  3. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – By threatening wind energy, Tories risk nearly 100,000 jobs http://t.co/LQOc8S9O

  4. michael moran

    Liberal Conspiracy – By threatening wind energy, Tories risk nearly 100,000 jobs http://t.co/LQOc8S9O

  5. Friday’s Post « iwastoldtheredbegin

    [...] By threatening wind energy the Tories risk 100,000 jobs [...]

  6. DENNIS MCQUADE

    By threatening wind energy, the Conservatives are putting at risk nearly 100,000 jobs http://t.co/83TwMBqJ

  7. Michael Hanley

    By threatening wind energy, the Conservatives are putting at risk nearly 100,000 jobs http://t.co/83TwMBqJ

  8. Collin Whittaker

    By threatening wind energy, the Conservatives are putting at risk nearly 100,000 jobs http://t.co/83TwMBqJ

  9. Owen Blacker

    By threatening wind energy, the Conservatives are putting at risk nearly 100,000 jobs http://t.co/83TwMBqJ

  10. David Gillon

    By threatening wind energy, the Conservatives are putting at risk nearly 100,000 jobs http://t.co/83TwMBqJ

  11. Rebecca Devitt

    By threatening wind energy, the Conservatives are putting at risk nearly 100,000 jobs http://t.co/83TwMBqJ

  12. Andy Peebs

    By threatening wind energy, the Conservatives are putting at risk nearly 100,000 jobs http://t.co/83TwMBqJ

  13. Bob Reid

    By threatening wind energy, the Conservatives are putting at risk nearly 100,000 jobs http://t.co/83TwMBqJ

  14. Ronald King

    By threatening wind energy, Tories risk nearly 100,000 jobs | Liberal …: contribution by Philip Pearson. “If w… http://t.co/utgVtUpT

  15. Mark Pittaway

    By threatening wind energy, Tories risk nearly 100,000 jobs | Liberal …: contribution by Philip Pearson. “If w… http://t.co/utgVtUpT





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