Renewable energy sector growth hindered by Government’s ‘policy gap’ says REA report

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The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology’s (REA) has published their state of industry annual report – REview21.

The report, which presents the latest deployment and employment figures for the renewable energy and clean technology industry, concludes that, while steady progress is being made in the decarbonisation of the UK’s energy supply, it will fall short of the Government’s Net Zero ambitions without additional investment and policy support.

Similar findings were found in the latest employment figures. While the sector saw an uplift in job creation (a 3.2% increase from the previous year), this figure needs to be higher to support both the oil and gas industry’s transition to Net Zero, and the wider economic recovery. Jobs in the industry, much like the rest of the economy, are also mostly weighted towards London and the South East at present, but significant numbers of jobs are distributed across the UK.

Key findings include:

  • In 2019, 12.3% of the UK’s energy consumption came from renewable sources, but while this exceeds the interim target set for this period, it is unlikely that the UK will meet the 15% target for 2020 set before Brexit, based on recent growth rates.
  • Progress continues to be driven by the power sector. In 2019, the power sector saw 34.85% of its energy come from renewable sources, up from 31.07% in 2018.
  • Bioenergy sources account for 80% of the UK’s total renewable heat generation. However the reduction of tariff rates under the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and large gaps in Government heat decarbonisation policy have stunted the growth of other technologies
  • Wind energy accounts for 53% of generation within the renewable power sector, and there are a range of other technologies making significant contributions, such as energy from waste and biomass power – solar PV produces more than 10%.
  • Renewable energy generation from anaerobic digestion has shown healthy progress over the past decade, with the processing of feedstock increasing from 1.5 million tonnes in 2012 to 8 million in 2018. However, the recycling rates of all household wastes (excluding IBA metals) have stagnated.
  • Transport has been the standout area of growth in this year’s REview, with a dramatic increase in the number of new car registrations for electric vehicles and hybrids (from 3.17% to 10.56% between 2019 and 2020). Meanwhile the consumption of renewable transport fuels grew by 27.3%.
  • Nearly 140,000 people were employed in the renewable energy and clean tech sector in 2019/20 – the REA projects that this could increase to more than 330,000 by 2035 – the REA has also included regional job projections for the first time.

Dr Nina Skorupska CBE, CEO of the REA, said:

“REview21 underlines the continuing resourcefulness, ingenuity and dedication of our industry and we have seen growth right across the board. However, despite the increase in renewable energy generation, it is clear that progress is being shackled by the reductions in tariff support and gaps in Government policy.

“The same goes for employment. Again, we have seen decent progress, with nearly 140,000 people now being employed by the renewable energy and clean tech industry and we believe that nearly 200,000 extra jobs could be created by 2035.

“This figure might be even greater if the Government properly backs our sector and puts the industry at the heart of the UK’s economic recovery. By the same token, these job projections aren’t a guarantee either. If the sector continues to receive patchy and short-term support from the Government then we could fall well short of our sector’s, and, indeed, the country’s economic potential. We need these new jobs to be fairly distributed across every region and country that makes up the United Kingdom too.

“If the Government is serious about reaching their Net Zero ambitions, and about ‘levelling up’, they need to back our sector, remove the barriers preventing the growth of our technologies and help us deliver new jobs and investment. 2021, the year the UK is hosting COP26, must be a watershed moment. The time for rhetoric is over, we need to see action.”

REA’s annual report can be read here in full.

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