Where’s the Green Banker?
With 10% of our electricity now from renewable supplies, news that employment in renewables doubled to 10,000 jobs in the past three years signals the true jobs potential of this industry. Plans for a £700m wind farm off the Yorkshire coast were agreed a few days ago, the second boost this year for a green energy hub in the region, after Siemens chose Hull as its proposed site for a wind turbine manufacturing plant. But manufacturing is the key word: most of our installed wind turbines are made aboard. The Renewable UK report suggests just 750 jobs in renewables manufacture. Set against this challenge, quite why the Green Investment Bank is stuck in the slow lane is beyond comprehension.
Renewable UK reports 6,000 jobs in large scale onshore wind schemes, with 300 in manufacturing. Most employment (2,900 jobs) are in Planning and Development and construction (1,000). There are about 3,100 working in offshore wind projects. But again, only around 250 (7%) are in design and manufacture. Most employment is in Construction and Installation (41%), while 500 people work in Operation and Maintenance activities. As for marine energy, where we are ahead of competitors, of the 800 employees in the sector, the largest proportions are employed in Design and Manufacture (25%), and in Support Services.
Offshore wind will make the single biggest contribution towards the UK Government’s target of 15% of energy from renewable sources by 2020. The UK offshore wind industry is now the largest in energy terms in the world – but not in manufacturing. But the large-scale onshore wind turbine market is still dominated by manufacturing companies operating in Germany, Denmark and Spain, where growth in these countries’ domestic markets created substantial manufacturing opportunities, and in doing so created substantial economies of scale that made turbines manufactured in these countries very competitive in European export markets.
There are lessons here for the Green Economy Road Map due this Spring. Domestic procurement and risk finance are key to our competitors’ successes. Whether the Green Investment Bank will arrive on time or with sufficient funds to support green manufacturing growth remains. The Business Secretary, in evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee this week, said staff would “begin to be recruited next year”, investments would take place by 2013-14. Its seed capitalisation would be £1billion. That scale of ambition was challenged by EAC members. DECC estimates that the UK needs to invest £110 billion by 2020 to renew our energy resources. £109bn to go, then.