“Windbys” damaging green jobs prospects
John Prescott’s call for local councils to be put under an “obligation” to find a place where a wind farm could be built in their area irritated the National Alliance of Wind Farm Action Groups (NAWAG), but not half as much as those of us protesting at the jobs lost from the closure of the Vestas wind turbine maker on the Isle of Wight.
NAWAG was launched this summer with the goal of orchestrating a “grass-roots revolt” against “ruthless” wind farm developers. Their leading lights include corporate communications and public affairs lobbyists. They might want to take a look at the UK Climate Impacts Programme website. All areas of the UK get warmer by mid-century, and the warming is greater in summer than in winter. Precipitation (rain, hail, snow etc) is likely more often in the winter, with drier summers, for much of the UK. If countryside residents are anxious to protect their “chocolate box” views, as Prescott argued, the chocolate will melt in the summers of the future.
We’re optimistic that new wind turbine manufacturers will move in to fill the huge gap left by the closure of the Vestas plant, losing 650 jobs. Our 2009 Budget report called for 36,000 direct new UK jobs created in the wind energy sector by 2020. But just now, we have only 5,000 wind sector jobs. Germany (80,000), Spain (32,000) and Denmark (22,000) have secured the majority of the benefits.
Prescott was right to focus on the role of local authorities. Winning support for wind energy in local communities clearly crucial, and LAs have a clear, positive role to play in shift to low carbon energy. How about local authorities required to develop local energy plans? Installing renewables on public buildings as routine. And requirements on developers to procure components in the UK, benefitting local jobs and industries? Not all wind farm projects are in the right place. But without renewable energy and the jobs that go with it, there will be no green economy.