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Renewable energy boosts UK economy by £2.5bn

Figures from the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) show that companies have announced plans for almost £2.5 billion worth of renewable energy investment in the UK, with the potential to create almost 12,000 jobs, so far in the financial year 2011/12.

By Kari Williamson

A separate report to the European Commission on renewable energy progress, shows that the UK:

  • Achieved a 27% increase in renewable energy consumption from 42.6 TWh in 2008 to 54 TWh in 2010 - representing 3.3% of total energy consumed;
  • Increased wind generation by 46% from 7 TWh in 2008 to 10.2 TWh in 2010, and in 2010 achieved 5 GW of offshore and onshore wind capacity; and
  • Saw a threefold increase in the use of biofuels in transport from 1% of total road transport fuel supply in 2007/8 to 3.33% in 2010.

UK Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, says: “Renewable energy is not just helping us increase our energy security and reduce our emissions. It is supporting jobs and growth across the country, and giving traditional industrial heartlands the opportunity to thrive again.

“Our renewable target is less demanding than other EU member states, but the effect is bringing real jobs and investment.

“I do not want the UK to be left behind by turning our back on the green economy. The agreement to negotiate a global deal secured at Durban has reinforced major nations’ commitment to cutting carbon. We cannot afford to stand alone while the world wises up.”

Renewable energy saves £84 per person annually

Chief Scientific Adviser to DECC, Professor David MacKay, warns that continuing reliance on expensive imports of fossil fuels such as gas and coal would cost the equivalent of £4682 per person per year – as well as missing the carbon reduction targets the UK has signed up to.

At the same time, however, he has calculated that investing in renewable sources of energy such as wind would save £84 per person per year, bringing the cost down to the equivalent of £4598.

His 'least-cost' scenario envisages that by 2050, the UK will generate 42% of its electricity from renewable sources, 31% from nuclear and 27% from gas. Adding more renewable energy to the mix could drive down costs by 1.8%.

The figures are based on the total cost of the investment needed to keep the lights on in the UK, and they shouldn't be confused with the cost of domestic fuel bills, trade association RenewableUK warns.

Jennifer Webber, RenewableUK's Director of External Affairs, says: "This is a timely reminder from the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser that doing nothing is not an option – we simply cannot afford to go on relying on high-carbon sources of energy. If we want to act in a manner which is financially prudent, and save money in the long term, we need to invest in renewables such as wind, wave and tidal energy".

In December alone, Siemens applied for planning permission to build a wind turbine factory in Hull which will employ 700 people. In Chepstow, the wind turbine tower manufacturer Mabey Bridge announced that it is doubling its workforce to 200 and has introduced round-the-clock shifts to meet demand. The Dorset-based small wind turbine manufacturer Ampair announced just before Christmas that it would be taking on 8 extra members of staff.

"At a time when other sectors of the economy are struggling and people are losing their jobs, the wind industry is bucking the trend and creating employment, bringing new opportunities and job security to families around the country," Webber concludes.

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