Businesses working in the Scotland’s renewable energy sector fear that up to one sixth of their workforce will be lost within the next 12 month as the after-shocks of the ‘Rudd re-set’ continue to shake the industry following the announcement last year by the UK government to end onshore subsidies.
In a survey of its own members, companies in the mostly wind-dominated Scottish Renewables trade association predict an average decrease in full-time equivalent posts in Scotland of 16.9% over the next year.
Respondents were also asked how they felt about the future of the renewables sector more generally over the coming 12 months.
More than four in ten (41%) said they felt either ‘quite’ or ‘very negative’, while the same number said they felt ‘neutral’ about the coming year.
More respondents felt positive about the future of their own businesses over the next 12 months than felt negatively. Some 47% said they felt either very positive or quite positive, while 32% felt either very negative or quite negative. A fifth (20%) said they felt neutral.
Due to the commercial sensitivities around the survey, evidence was collated anonymously.
One respondent said: “We had been very busy with renewable work for well over a decade. However this has dropped dramatically [since 2015]. We can’t see this changing any time soon, so we are actively seeking work in other areas.”
Another remarked: “We have little confidence in the Scottish renewables sector. We are seeking alternate sources of income outwith the UK, but failing that we anticipate a material reduction in workforce.”
Wind turbine manufacturer and project developer ENERCON UK employs 155 people in Scotland but anticipates this number could fall by up to a third in the next 12 months, as staff move abroad to work in other countries where ENERCON is active.
Country Manager Richard Hatton said the primary reason for this potential decline was: “Government policy on onshore wind, leading to a much smaller market, reduced orders and a reduction in requirements for staff across the business.”
Wind turbine manufacturer Vestas employs 69 people in Scotland.
Sarah Merrick, Head of Public Affairs, UK and Ireland, said: “The UK onshore wind sector is currently in limbo. It is the cheapest source of new-build power, but yet cannot access the market.
“The UK Government’s policy is contradictory and looks set to achieve the exact opposite of what it says it wants to achieve: decarbonisation at the lowest cost.”
A spokesman for the trade association commented: “Renewables are the largest source of power in Scotland, providing enough energy to meet more than half of our electricity needs, with the sector currently employing around 21,000 people.
“For Scotland’s renewable energy industry to continue providing jobs and ever-greater reductions in carbon emissions, government must act quickly to give companies the confidence they need to keep investing in our sector.
“Onshore wind and solar are the two cheapest forms of electricity, but ministers are refusing to allow them to access long term contracts for power, which will result in a marked slowdown in investment and a decrease in employment, as our survey indicates.”
SNP MSP Ivan McKee commented: “The SNP in Government recognises the vital role renewables have to play in our continued economic prosperity and in protecting our environment which is why the draft Scottish Energy Strategy has already proposed an ambitious but achievable goal of a 50% renewables target.
“The Tories must demonstrate they are committed to developing an effective, sustainable energy policy framework that will help cut energy bills and safeguard our environment for future generations. and I hope the Chancellor will deliver this by setting out ambitious proposals to secure our renewables sector in Wednesday’s Budget.”