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Renewable Energy Jobs (Scotland)

Volume 597: debated on Thursday 25 June 2015

11. What estimate she has made of the number of jobs in Scotland supported by the renewable energy industry. (900547)

Renewable energy supported around 23,200 jobs in Scotland in 2013. As green energy is not about having wind farms

“any time, any place, anywhere”,

which is how the Scottish Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism once criticised the approach in Scotland, it is important to note that these jobs were supported across a variety of renewable energy technologies, and by supply chains.

We know that some jobs will be lost as a result of the Government’s decision prematurely to withdraw the subsidy from onshore wind farms. The Government were reluctant to tell us how many jobs they thought would be lost. Will they tell us what an acceptable price would be, in terms of Scottish jobs? How many jobs would have to be lost in the Scottish renewables sector before the price was deemed too high?

The hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to hear me say that job creation and job support are incredibly important in Scotland, and in the UK overall. Renewable energy remains a growth area, with high employment and investment. Scotland has a number of employees in the offshore wind sector, which continues to grow. I attended a conference on the sector yesterday. It is beginning to have a serious impact on exports.

Of course, it is not only existing jobs that will be affected by the Government’s short-sighted policy on onshore wind; the opportunity to create further highly skilled and well-paid jobs will also be affected, perhaps even more so. As the Minister of State said, around 19,000 people owe their livelihoods to the UK’s onshore wind industry, but according to RenewableUK, that figure could have increased to as many as 37,000 by 2023 if Government policies had remained supportive. Is it not nonsense for the Government to turn their back on an industry with such enormous jobs potential?

As my hon. Friend the Minister of State pointed out, onshore wind has been a great success. If we continued to support it at the level that we had done over the past few years, there would be an impact on everybody’s bills, because we already have an aim for 2020 of getting between 11 GW to 13 GW from onshore wind; if onshore wind continues to be deployed at the level it has been over the past few years, that will contribute to an additional cost on people’s bills. I urge the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald) to think about his constituents, who would not welcome another £10 or £15 on their bills.

Has my right hon. Friend any estimates of, or would she care to hazard a guess, how much it would cost the average Scottish household if the ambitions of the Scottish National party to resume subsidising wind farms were realised, but the cost was met by the Scottish Government and Scottish taxpayer?

My right hon. Friend makes a very good point that highlights the impact on people’s bills of supporting these subsidies. We have the levy control framework to make sure that we provide for a cap. As for what it would cost the Scottish Government to reapply the subsidies, I urge them to look at that themselves.

19. The Secretary of State will by now have received a copy of a letter from the Binn Group in my constituency, with whom I met earlier this morning. It is involved in one of the £3 billion-worth of onshore wind projects that are in the planning pipeline and at risk owing to the Government’s recent decision. Will she confirm that her Department will consider that letter, to help protect at least 100 jobs at the Binn Group and ensure the creation of at least 100 more? (900557)

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I have not yet seen her letter, but of course I will look carefully at what she has asked me to look at. I would, however, ask her, her constituents, and the developers who have obviously come to see her to bear it in mind that we have made our statement, and that our decision will be taken forward in primary legislation: we will end onshore wind subsidies.