From the TUC

25,000 solar jobs – but is Government helping?

11 Oct 2011, by in Environment

The solar industry is powering green jobs growth across the UK, on a day when the Environmental Audit Committee has warned the Government that its decision review our climate targets in 2014 undermine investor certainty in our green economy. It “would put achieving our 20050 target in jeopardy”, the committee says. The 4th Carbon Budget (recommended by the Committee on Climate Change earlier this year) represents:

“the minimum needed to ensure the 2050 emissions reduction target is met. The prospect of the review changing the budgets in itself undermines the benefit of having longer-term certainty about Government policy that investors in low-carbon need.”

According to the Renewable Energy Association ,the UK solar sector now employs around 25,000 people. This means 22,000 more people are employed in the solar industry than when the UK Feed-In Tariff (FIT) scheme began last year. There are now 4,000 solar companies in the UK. In addition to installation companies, the UK has over 60 companies working in the solar manufacturing supply chain and 6 solar manufacturing/assembly plants. If the Treasury would agree new tariffs for renewables, “there are important new solar manufacturing opportunities in the electric vehicle charging and commercial roofing sector, with large export potential,” the REA says.

But the fount of uncertainty appears, again, to be the Treasury, criticised in the Sunday Times last weekend for delaying new rates for renewable energy under the Renewables Obligation (RO). The RO is a key mechanism for supporting renewable energy investments. These delays are holding up major investments, the report argued.

The EAC also questions the Government’s uncertain handling of the threat of “carbon leakage”: that action we take on climate change may result in some production and jobs moving abroad, to countries with less stringent policies or carbon-related taxes. “Without care, this could harm UK industry and could actually increase global emissions.” Some energy intensive industries have expressed particular concerns about the carbon budgets driving production abroad, but Government has given little priority to generating hard evidence of such ‘carbon leakage’.

The TUC has been working with its affiliates in industries like steel, cement, ceramics, aluminum and other sectors on a support package. In deciding energy policy, manufacturers need to know that fundamentally the government is on their side, that evidence-based policy making is required to allay fears that  lobbying and “special pleading” could be dictating policy. We couldn’t agree more. As the Committee said, “a comprehensive and robust assessment of the actual risk to each sector affected” is required.