RenewableUK, the wind and marine energy association, held its annual conference and exhibition this week in Manchester.
The three day event served to discuss the current issues surrounding the renewable energy industry – with guest speaker Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne.
Following the examination of onshore and offshore wind deployment rates in the last year, RenewablesUK discovered that despite the completion of a healthy pipeline of projects, new onshore approvals have hit an all time low across the UK.
While 44 projects went operational, an improvement of almost 20% on last year’s figures, onshore approval rates fell overall in the UK.
Maria McCaffery MBE, RenewableUK chief executive, said: “The overall level of deployment is encouraging, but that is being driven by the historic backlog of projects finally coming through the system. The number of planning refusals of new projects by local authorities is alarming, with the lack of new offshore approval & the Dudgeon onshore substation refusal setting a worrying precedent”.
In more promising news a RenewableUK survey revealed that wind and marine energy companies are planning to create hundreds of new jobs in the next 18 months.
81% of the 151 companies that took part said they intended to increase staffing levels in the next year and a half.
Dr Gordon Edge, RenewableUK’s director of policy, said: “This survey shows that the renewables sector is confident about expanding to meet our carbon reduction targets, delivering the twin benefits of energy security and job creation”.
“We need the right level of support from the government to achieve this goal. We need to have a system that’s fit for purpose to ensure that the economic growth which we want to deliver can be achieved”.
The survey found that 51% believed the most important incentive for development was a supportive framework from the Government, in the form of Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs), Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) and Contracts for Difference (CfDs).
Speaking at the conference, Secretary of State, Chris Huhne, vigorously defended the renewables industry highlighting the 9,000 jobs created and the £1.7 billion invested in the sector in this financial year alone.
He added renewable energy technologies would deliver “a third industrial revolution every bit as profound as the first two” and criticised “the curmudgeons and faultfinders who hold forth on the impossibility of renewable”.