A ‘committed’ Government can spur post-Brexit renewables job growth, says REA

EXCLUSIVE: The UK's departure from the European Union (EU) should be facilitated by a new Government that uses key "lighthouse areas" to outline how the country plans embed low-carbon smart technologies into operations as a means to attract better investment options.

That is the view of the Renewable Energy Association’s (REA) chief executive Nina Skorupska, who told edie that the new Government should reaffirm its commitment to the Industrial Strategy and publish the Clean Growth Plan as soon as the General Elections were over to inspire confidence across sectors that are still feeling the repercussions from a “bonfire of policies” over the past two years.

The REA launched its Manifesto Recommendations earlier this month, outlining how a post-Brexit UK should be “dynamic and bold” by capturing the growth and opportunities of future technologies, including renewables and energy storage.

For Skorupska, commitment should start on “day one” of the new Government’s reign, with job growth in the renewables sector highlighted as an area where ministers could drive investment during a period where the Government is attempting to balance trade deals and green policy.

“Day one after the General Election, we’ve got to have seen a recommitment to the Industrial Strategy and seeing that smart technologies and broader renewables play a key part in the clean growth document that we hope to see,” Skorupska said.

“We’ve welcomed the high-level statements from all parties for the commitment to the Climate Change Act and hot-footing on that has got to be the post-2020 landscape and how we can deliver future carbon budgets. I don’t want to see ministers position themselves as being very hollow on delivering on messaging as it stops the UK being open for future investment.”

Pick and mix approach

Specifically, Skorupska called for clarity on how the Industrial Strategy plans integrate decentralised and smart technologies to enable the UK to reach its low-carbon commitments. A number of flexible energy storage trials are underway in the UK and Skorupska claimed that partnering the storage sector with the renewables sector would create a “massive opportunity” for growth.

The REA is set to publish the latest iteration of its REview industry report this week, which examines the latest growth trends and concerns in the renewables sector. The report is set to announced that more than 125,000 people in the UK are working in the renewables sector, up from 117,000 from last year’s report.

This doesn’t take into account the estimated 15,000 people working in the energy storage and electric vehicles (EVs) sectors. If the Government were to focus on aligning these sectors, the REA feels that a “level playing field” is necessary to balance the costs of integrating them into the energy infrastructure.

“Our ability to put together solutions that capture smart technologies and renewables could be viable if we get a fair crack of the tax rate,” Skorupska said. “The reduction of subsidies and changing business rates means we’re getting a pick and mix approach.

“We had a terrible few years with the bonfire of the policies and we’re feeling the repercussions, but it has to change. We need some support to enable established technologies to directly become part of the fabric of the UK. We need that level playing ground. If we could make the UK a hub, through the Industrial Strategy, the number of jobs in the sector could triple if not quadruple in the next two to three years.”

Victims of excitement

As witnessed by last week’s edie Live conference, interest around battery storage is swelling. On a broader level, all the main political parties have committed to strengthening various low-carbon technologies as part of their manifestos.

However, Skorupska noted that a lot of the emerging technologies have yet to find the most optimal management approach. While she was keen to praise the number of new technologies and business models emerging, Skorupska suggested that communicating which model would work for which business or region would be crucial to establishing them.

“I’m excited by the proliferation of so many business models, the only problem with that is that because there are so many, people don’t know which ones to choose or how to accelerate it. We can be the victims of our own excitement about innovation.

“We’re dealing with smart technology, but we’re not smart enough to communicate it well enough. We want competition to get the technology out there, but we want everyone to extol the virtues of a future of renewables and clean technology. As an industry, we need to collaborate to shout even louder.”

Matt Mace

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