Recession looms, unemployment touches a 17-year high. But 101 Tory MPs want David Cameron to shackle the UK’s wind industry, which now employs over 10,000 people. Their call will feed the predominant anti-renewables line in some media. The MPs want cuts in “taxpayer subsidies” for onshore wind and stronger rights for planning objectors. In January alone, 2,700 wind industry jobs were either created or reinforced with new contracts, including Samsung in Fife teaming up with Huddersfield-based David Brown Gear Systems; Vestas in Sheerness; and wind turbine tower manufacturer Mabey Bridge, Chepstow. What is it about renewables with some MPs and the media?
First to January’s industrial news. According to RenewableUK, Samsung announced a £100 million project at Fife Energy Park to develop a 7 megawatt offshore turbine, employing 500 people. It’s the company’s first venture of this type in Europe. Huddersfield-based David Brown Gear Systems will design and manufacture the gearboxes, a coup for a British manufacturer. Meanwhile, Vestas submitted a planning application to build a factory at Sheerness in Kent which will create 2,000 jobs when it opens in 2015.
Manufacturer Mabey Bridge, Chepstow, will supply 35 wind turbine towers to the turbine manufacturer Nordex – Mabey Bridge has recently doubled its workforce to 200 and introduced a 24-hour shift system to meet demand.
And also in January, in the small wind sector, Leicestershire-based Evance Wind Turbines announced its sales had grown 200% in 12 months, leading to a 25% increase in its workforce and a doubling in the size of its manufacturing facility.
The Tory MPs claim, in their letter to Cameron, of a huge ”taxpayer subsidy” is plain wrong. It’s a levy on consumer bills, and as a new DECC study shows, renewable energy policies add just 2% (£19) a year to consumer energy bills last year.
Media bias against renewables would be funny if it wasn’t damaging jobs and skills opportunities. A Pirc study shows that in the Daily Mail 46% of all articles mentioning renewables were negative, while only 15% were positive. Of articles centrally concerned with renewables in the Daily Mail, 75% were negative. The Sun likewise was broadly more negative than positive in its coverage. But jobs and employment tended to be associated with much more positive coverage, especially in the Daily Mail.