The benefits of onshore wind to the wider UK economy are worth over half-a-billion pounds, according to a new report published by RenewableUK and the Department for Energy and Climate Change(DECC).
The report, by BiGGAR Economics, looks at 18 case studies of wind farms of different sizes drawn from across the UK. It analyses the contribution of wind farm development, construction, operation and maintenance to the UK economy at a local, regional and national level.
The report finds that onshore wind supported 8,600 jobs and was worth £548m to the UK economy in 2011. Of this figure 1,100 jobs were created at the Local Authority level, worth £84m.
If onshore wind is deployed at a scale suggested in the Government’s Renewable Energy Roadmap, the economy could benefit to the tune of £0.78bn by 2020, supporting around 11,600 jobs.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, said: “Onshore wind power is a cost effective and valuable part of the UK's diverse energy mix.
“Not only does wind power provide secure, low carbon power to homes and businesses, it supports jobs and brings significant investment up and down the country too.
“Our policies of increasing community involvement will also help ensure the right balance between developers and community interests.
“With the cost of the technology coming down, there is a real opportunity to reap the economic benefits onshore wind can bring.”
Maria McCaffery, RenewableUK CEO, added: “We’re delighted with the results of this survey, showing the real value that wind provides – close to £700,000 for every MW installed in the UK, with over £100,000 of that staying in the Local Authority area.”
One in three of the jobs at local level are in operations and maintenance, showing that wind farms sustain employment, years after construction. For both the development and Operations and Management stages of the wind farm process the vast majority of the value of contracts stays within the UK – 98% of the UK spend on development, equating to £106,330 per MW, and over 90% of the Operating and Management costs, contributing a further £47,610 per MW.
The report’s authors also point out that many of the 8,000 components required to manufacture a turbine are, or could be produced in the UK, driving up the amount of UK content during the construction phase, from a point of £529,383 per MW today.
The report concludes: “Many activities relating to the development of wind farms are already carried out by UK based businesses. As the sector develops, there are likely to be opportunities to increase this activity”
Crucially, it recognises the benefits for local economies, stating: “The experience of many local economies over the last few years however, has been that the economic impact of onshore deployment can be significant in terms of direct economic impact and wider indirect effects.”
Other wider benefits, whilst difficult to quantify, are also assessed, such as community benefit schemes, community ownership, investments in infrastructure around new developments and improvements to wildlife and habitat management.
The report also looks at 4 potential deployment scenarios for 2020 ranging between 10GW and 19GW as set out in the 2011 Renewable Energy Road map and 2010 UK National Renewable Energy Action Plan and what impact these would have in jobs and investment.
The report suggests that under the central scenario set out in the UK Renewable Energy Roadmap the onshore wind industry could support 11,612 direct and supply chain jobs; rising to 15,459, total jobs if wider quantifiable impacts are taken into account. This would contribute around £0.78bn to the UK economy.
However, with just a 2GW increase in capacity, to the 15GW suggested in the UK’s Renewable Energy Action Plan, these figures would rise to 13,771 direct and supply chain jobs 18,339 total jobs (including wider quantifiable impacts), with £0.91bn GVA going into the economy.
Summarising the report's impact, Maria McCaffery, commented: “This study explains why in rural areas 68% of people support wind, and 57% of those living in rural areas recognise that wind brings benefits in terms of jobs, 12% more than those in urban areas.
“Rather than feeling that wind has been imposed on them, real people, across the UK are recognising the benefits of having wind in their backyard, and with Government’s help we’ll continue to build on the 8600 people employed across the country because of onshore wind, as promised by our members in the Wind Energy Charter”.
McCaffery sounded only one note of caution: “Whilst we can see that with increased deployment comes both increased value and jobs added, plus an increase in market share for the UK, if we were to only see 10GW come forward jobs will actually be lost in the development and construction phases, and there will be no increase in our market share.
“So it’s therefore essential for UK growth and employment to keep onshore wind progressing and revitalising communities”.