Renewable energy sector in Devon and Cornwall gives huge jobs boost
The amount of people working in the wind and marine energy sector has increased by 74% in the last three years, according to new figures.
The wind, wave and energy sector now directly employs 18,465 people, according to RenewableUK, the trade body for the industry.
Although the statistics are national, an industry expert said the meteoric rise has been matched in the Westcountry, where an estimated 10,000 people were employed in renewables in 2012.
The industry has been criticised in the past for the lack of jobs it provides for local workers, however the RenewableUK study estimates around 91% remain in the country.
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In the South West, which witnessed the genesis of the wind turbine industry over two decades ago, it is estimated the employment figure will rise to 15,500 by 2020.
But Merlin Hyman, from Regen South West, a leading centre of sustainable energy expertise, said that could rise to as much as 34,000 if the technology was embraced. "We have got the Atlantic Array proposals off the coast of Devon," he said. "It's not the case that all the jobs will come to Devon but a significant proportion could if we work hard at that. What we are starting to see are the two visions of the South West. Are we innovative, high tech, creating new jobs, building, doing it in the right way? Or are we going to say no, to Atlantic Array for example, not to damage tourism. This is a huge challenge, with huge investment going on, creating huge opportunities. The question is are we going to take a leading role?"
Atlantic Array developer RWE estimates the controversial off-shore 240 turbine installation would create the equivalent of around 430 jobs during its construction, if the plans, currently under consideration by the Planning Inspectorate, are approved.
ScottishPower Renewables which recently spent £20million on upgrading the Carland Cross windfarm between Truro and Newquay estimated about 100 people worked on the job. A spokesman said it will provide around five technicians and one full-time supervisor going forward. Other jobs include electrical network providers, civil contractors for building and road maintenance, specialist technical resources, and environmental monitoring resources.
He said: "The growth of renewable energy in the UK, and the thousands of jobs that the industry now supports, owes a great deal to those first generation of projects that were forged in the South West."
RenewableUK's Chief Executive, Maria McCaffery, said the scale of the opportunity for the industry going forward was massive, but success not guaranteed. She said: "To really harness the economic benefits of our technologies we must ensure that there is certainty for industry. Certainty on future levels of deployment of wind, wave and tidal energy over the next decade will enable firms to invest in the right people and the right skills, and ensure we maximise the number of green collar jobs we create as we transform our electricity system. We want to ensure offshore wind is given the same opportunity to prosper as the North Sea oil and gas industries had in their heyday."