Energy policy ‘putting jobs at risk’

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More than 3,000 Cornish jobs could be lost as a result of proposed changes to UK energy policy, according to new research.

The Renewable Energy Office for Cornwall (REOC) said the jobs are at risk in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors in Cornwall because of Government changes to energy policy since May’s election.

This includes cuts to subsidies for solar and wind energy projects, and a proposed 87% cut in the solar feed-in-tariff (FIT) from January, a Government incentive scheme for small solar installations which the Solar Trade Association has said could cost 27,000 UK jobs alone.

The last six months have also seen the Government:

  • scrap the ‘green deal’ which helped homeowners invest in insulating their homes
  • announce it would axe an energy-efficiency programme designed to help the poorest homeowners with loft and cavity wall insulation and new efficient boilers
  • abandon plans to make all new homes carbon neutral from next year
  • introduce tough new planning restrictions on onshore wind farms
  • remove tax relief for people investing in community energy

There are around 470 renewable energy and energy efficiency companies in Cornwall, supporting more than 3,900 jobs.

A recent survey carried out for REOC to assess the potential impacts of changes to Government energy policy suggests that around 78% of these jobs – or just over 3,000 – could be lost. This would double unemployment in Cornwall as the most recent claimant count showed 3,101 people currently out of work.

And there is evidence that young people considering a career in renewable energy are being put off by what they see as the Government’s hostile attitude to renewables, with enrolment on relevant University courses in Cornwall said to be down by as much as 20%.

Fears have also been raised about the impact on fuel poverty (households that spend more than 10% of their income on fuel bills) because of cuts to home insulation schemes. According to Government figures, Cornwall has 14% of households in fuel poverty, rising to 22% on the Isles of Scilly, compared to 10% nationally.

Charmian Larke, managing director of Truro-based renewable energy consultancy Atlantic Energy, and author of the REOC report, said: “These findings should be a wake-up call that Government changes to energy policy could have a catastrophic effect on Cornwall’s green energy sector and push thousands more Cornish households into fuel poverty.

“For decades Cornwall has led the way in developing a low carbon economy and around £250 million was invested in local renewable energy projects in the last year. Even the Government’s own devolution deal says the sector is a major opportunity to increase Cornwall’s productivity, develop high value jobs and create localised energy generation and security of supply.

“All of that now risks being derailed through short-sighted policy changes that could fatally undermine a key part of our economy. As world leaders meet in Paris to negotiate a new climate change treaty, I hope people will write to our six Cornish MPs and demand action.”

Larke said she had recently met with Truro and Falmouth MP Sarah Newton with representatives from community energy groups the Fal Energy Partnership and Truro Renewable Energy Enterprise to brief her on the potential impacts of Government policy.

As a result of the meeting a briefing paper is now being prepared for Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.