Energy secretary Ed Davey has warned that the Conservative party’s opposition to onshore wind turbines risks undermining the creation of British jobs as new data showed 15,400 people are now employed in the wind power industry.

The data from trade body RenewableUK shows a 70% rise in jobs in the wind power industry since 2010, while wind supplied 9% of all UK electricity. The industry attracted £2.6bn of investment in 2013-14, of which £1.1bn stayed in the UK.

But Davey said that the Conservative party’s “ideological” opposition to onshore turbines was undermining new British jobs and driving up customer bills because wind is the cheapest clean energy.

“We have had a major leap forward in recent years and there is a really good story to tell,” Davey said. “But I want to be clear I am having a go at the Conservative party here. It has made it clear onshore wind is something they don’t want to see in the future expansion of low-carbon energy and I think that is undermining investment now and undermining jobs.”

The Tory communities secretary, Eric Pickles, has called in more than 50 windfarm planning applications for his adjudication and in October Davey said his cabinet colleague was in danger of “abusing ministerial power”. “This political noise we keep hearing is undermining investor confidence in onshore wind and having a contagion effect in renewable energy more generally,” Davey said.

“Anyone who undermines investor confidence in Britain should explain themselves,” he said. “Our economic recovery is vital for British jobs and our prosperity and I hope people who put that at risk for ideological reasons will get punished at the polls.”

Davey said the prime minister, David Cameron, was committed to the UK’s carbon emission targets, but that blocking windfarms would hurt energy bill-payers: “If you take onshore wind off the table, which we know is the cheapest large-scale renewable, then you are going to increase people’s energy bills.”

According to RenewableUK, full-time jobs in the commercial British wind industry rose 8% in the 12 months to June 2014.

“That’s a growth rate that most other sectors can only dream of – renewables is the employment engine of the future. However, this growth is threatened with extinction by the Conservatives’ misguided policy of ending all future support for it. The Tories are way out of step with the two-thirds majority of the public which consistently supports onshore wind,” said Maria McCaffery, chief executive of RenewableUK.

Tom Greatrex, Labour’s shadow energy minister, also attacked the Conservative opposition to wind power. “We have mounting evidence that Pickles is engaged in a crusade to subvert and undermine the planning process and local decisions in pursuit of his party’s economically illogical anti-renewables dogma. We now have an effective backdoor ban on onshore wind in the UK. The Tories need to wake up and realise they are hurting British industries and British jobs,” said Greatrex.

Earlier in November, the Conservative environment secretary, Liz Truss, moved to curb the growth of solar power farms, which she described as a big problem.

The latest information on jobs in the wind power industry came as the Conservative energy minister, Matthew Hancock, prepared to announce a £1.5m initiative to establish a national college for onshore oil and gas. “Shale gas is an enormous opportunity for the UK and one that we simply can’t afford to miss out on,” he said. “Only by arming people with the skills they need to be shale specialists can we provide career opportunities for thousands of young people and help the UK economy remain strong and competitive.”

RenewableUK also reported that windfarms generated £18m in community benefits and contributed £6m to local councils through business rates in 2013-14. Davey said that a supply chain initiative with the business department aimed to increase the proportion of the investment spent in Britain.

The green economy employs almost a million people in the UK, more than teaching, and in 2011-12, the last year the government collected the statistics, was worth £128bn, or 8% of GDP. In 2012, John Cridland, director general of the CBI, said if the government untangled the “gnarly mess” of its policy a green business boost could increase the growth rate of the UK economy by 0.5% by 2015, a gain of nearly £20bn in GDP.


Damian Carrington

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Energy firm RWE npower axes £4bn UK windfarm amid political uncertainty
UK's green plans dealt blow by shelving of Atlantic Array, which would have powered 1m homes and created thousands of jobs

Terry Macalister, Energy editor

26, Nov, 2013 @12:43 AM

Article image
Ed Davey interview: 'I'm not going to give up on renewable energy'
It's been quite a week for energy secretary Ed Davey – from Hinkley Point to Grangemouth, with big rows about energy profits and green taxes in between. Guess what ... he's loving it

Susanna Rustin

25, Oct, 2013 @7:00 PM

Article image
Higher energy bills for majority by 2020 despite government reassurances

Energy and climate polices will only reduce bills for a third of households, analysis of figures obtained by the Guardian shows

Juliette Jowit, political correspondent

08, Feb, 2012 @8:15 PM

Article image
Rising energy bills will be reduced with climate policies, Ed Davey says

Energy secretary launches analysis showing that green measures could save householders around £166 a year by 2020

John Vidal

27, Mar, 2013 @6:00 AM

Article image
Offshore windfarms vital amid tensions with Russia, says energy secretary
Ed Davey says windfarms important at time of global insecurity with western world in standoff with Moscow over Crimea

Terry Macalister, energy editor

25, Mar, 2014 @5:52 PM

Article image
Energy price rise: David Cameron defends green subsidies
PM says green levies necessary to fund wind and nuclear power after energy giant SSE partly blames 8.2% price hike on state-imposed subsidies

Rowena Mason, political correspondent

10, Oct, 2013 @3:46 PM

Article image
Green energy investment will fuel short-term price hike, says minister – video

The energy secretary says investment in green fuels will mean an initial spike in household bills

23, Nov, 2012 @3:28 PM

Article image
Lib Dems dismiss Tory threat to cut renewable energy subsidies

Senior Lib Dem says cut is not legally possible because contracts with energy companies are already in place

Damian Carrington

07, Oct, 2013 @12:48 PM

Article image
Windfarm wars: are they a majestic man-made wonder – or a blight on the countryside?
The Conservatives have promised to give people living near proposed windfarms the final say on applications. Will the future of renewable energy in the UK come down to a matter of taste?

Laura Barton

18, Apr, 2015 @7:00 AM

Article image
Households to be paid for daytime green electricity use during lockdown
Fall in energy use combined with bright, breezy weather leads to lowest electricity prices in 10 years

Jillian Ambrose

05, Apr, 2020 @1:33 PM