Up to 1,000 new Scottish renewable supply-chain jobs at risk as MPs demand defunct-DECC explains why it did not assess Scots impact of UK wind subsidy-axe

Pete Wishart, MP and Chairman, Scottish Affairs Committee
Pete Wishart, MP and Chairman, Scottish Affairs Committee

Scottish Energy News EXCLUSIVE

The chief executive of one of the key supply-chain sectors to Scotland’s renewable energy industry has warned that up to 1,000 new jobs may be at risk unless the UK government ‘reviews’ its decision to axe onshore subsidies to new wind farm developments.

Yesterday, a report by the MPs on the House of Commons’ Scottish Affairs Committee on the renewable energy sector in Scotland warned that recent changes in UK Government policy have created uncertainty that threatens the industry’s prospects for future growth.

The report recommends that the UK Government should review its decision to bar onshore wind schemes from accessing subsidies, end uncertainty for the sector, and set out its view on whether a ‘market stabilisation’ mechanism for onshore wind could be introduced.

But the trade association which represents over 300 contractors of all sizes – covering approximately 80% of the civil engineering market in Great Britain – said that the UK Government should review its renewables policy, particularly its decision to bar onshore wind schemes from accessing subsidies.

Alan Watt, Chief Executive, Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) Scotland, said: “Scotland is home to around 60% of the UK’s onshore wind capacity, which is one of the cheapest means of generating renewable electricity.

“The renewables sector in Scotland is an exemplar of how a sector can thrive within a supportive policy environment.

“However, recent changes to UK renewables policy, particularly for onshore wind and mini-hydro, have caused uncertainty for the sector, which is threatening jobs and growth. We reckon that up to 1,000 jobs – about a third of our sector in renewables – are at risk as a result.

“CECA welcomes this report and its recommendations, which if implemented would further allow the use of Scotland’s natural resources to provide part of a balanced UK energy portfolio.

“This would help achieve the UK’s carbon emission targets, and at the same time protect businesses and jobs, many of which are located in remote and socio-economically sensitive areas of Scotland.”

Members of the CECA include many household names, including Crummock Scotland, I & H Brown, the Malcolm Group, Martin Mathers Engineering Ross-shire, BAM Nuttall, the Banks Group, Hunter Construction Aberdeen Ltd, Taylor Woodrow and Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd.

In their report, MPs on the Scottish Affairs Select Committee revealed that the Dept of Energy (DECC – which was abolished last week) had not carried out an impact assessment of the likely effect on (un) employment in the Scottish renewables sector of its decision to cut onshore wind subsidies.

Pete Wishart, MP (SNP), Chairman of the Westminster committee, said yesterday in Edinburgh: “Although the (UK) government did undertake impact assessments of these policy changes, these did not consider the impact on Scotland.

“And the then Energy Minister was unable to present us with any evidence that the (UK) government had assessed the particular damage these changes would have on Scotland.”

Last year, Scottish Renewables estimated that the removal of the onshore wind subsidy ‘could’ put up to £3 billion of investment and 5,400 jobs at risk as a result.

Wishart added: “The Independent Renewable Energy Generators Group have also argued that recent (UK) policy changes will limit the routes to market for renewable electricity projects and stated that this will ‘inevitably have a knock-on effect for jobs and the economy’.

Welcoming the Scottish Affairs Committee report, Andy Kerr, Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation –  also emphasised the need for a ‘systems-wide approach’ to de-carbonising not only electricity, but also the heating and transport sectors – a call he highlighted at the Scotland’s Renewables Future forum held at the ECCI earlier this summer.

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Commenting, SNP MSP John Mason –  Deputy Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Jobs and Economy, Committee – said: “This is just the latest example of how the Tory government’s relentless and sustained assault on the renewable energy industry is costing jobs and economic growth – and risking holding back Scotland’s world-leading ambitions for a low-carbon economy.   

“At this time of uncertainty for the industry in the face of Brexit, the Tory government has a duty to do everything it can to provide reassurance and to protect jobs and investment – instead they are doing the exact opposite, and putting their own ideological interests ahead of the national interest. 

Scottish Affairs Committee Report on renewables in ScotlandThe report by MPs in full is available here.

Other key findings of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee Report include:  

  1. UK Government’s recent tactics for cutting renewables support “of serious concern”
  2. UK Government should “work with the Scottish Government to produce a long-term strategy for the future of Great Britain’s electricity supply”, with action also necessary to decarbonise heat and transport sectors
  3. Decision to ban onshore wind from competitive power auctions “must be reviewed”
  4. Date for next power auction should be “set out… at the earliest possible opportunity” to end uncertainty – and projects on Scotland’s remote islands should be included
  5. UK policy changes were done ‘ad hoc’ based on unclear decision making, creating uncertainty for industry
  6. OFGEM should look into levelling costs of connecting to the electricity grid across the UK

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