Barker urges greater ambition on renewables

On the eve of the Clean Energy Ministerial, energy minister Greg Barker has admitted that the Government needs to raise the level of UK ambition if it is to succeed in driving renewables growth.

Speaking at the launch of a report earlier today (April 24) from the Renewable Energy Association (REA) and Innovas, the minister said it was “imperative” that the UK recognises the “key ability of the renewables sector as a potential for growth”.

His claim is backed up in the ‘Made in Britain’ report, which revealed that the UK’s £12.5bn renewables industry currently supports 110,000 jobs across its supply chain – which it forecasts could grow to 400,000 by 2020 if the UK’s renewable energy targets are met.

This could help inject £60bn back into the UK green economy by reducing reliance on oil and gas imports, which the study claims would give a “significant boost to the UK’s balance of trade”. It would also support a target of 15% of energy from renewables by 2020.

However, the REA has warned that while the renewables sector is growing rapidly, maintaining this curve is dependent on the Government taking action to encourage the development of green skills.

REA chief executive Gaynor Hartnell said: “Harnessing our renewables creates employment and means that rather than spending money on energy imports we can keep it circulating in the UK economy.

“The Government needs to take steps to build the skills base and keep the UK on track to meet its renewables targets. When it comes to the employment, economic and energy challenges we face, the answer is clear – make it renewable and make it in Britain.”

Drawing on the success of Germany’s renewables sector, Barker said that one reason it is so far ahead of the UK is because its population sees the “tangible benefits to their economy from renewables”.

This is largely because the German renewables industry manufactures more than the UK, which in turn creates jobs. Barker added that he would like to see more of the UK’s renewable energy supply chain “made in Britain”.

The minister also confirmed that onshore and offshore wind energy would continue to play a major role in the UK’s renewable energy generation. He went onto dismiss this week’s launch of a new anti-wind group, the National Opposition to Windfarms, saying he’d “never heard of them”.

According to Barker, the UK has enough turbines built, being developed or in planning process to “take us through to 2020” and said it was an “irrational fear” that the UK would be covered in windfarms.

The report follows the release of a European Commission study which also identified the green economy as a key sector for important job creation potential by predicting that renewables could provide up to 3 million jobs across the EU by 2020.

According to CBI director-general John Cridland, renewables will play a key role in the development of the low-carbon economy by helping to diversify the UK energy mix.

Meanwhile Trades Union Congress deputy general secretary Frances O’Grady argued that the report makes “the strongest case yet to show that green opportunities, and the jobs the sector has the potential to create, can provide decent, highly skilled employment to people whose jobs are being lost as a result of changes in the global economy”.

Carys Matthews

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