Wind farm developers receive more than £115,000 in subsidies for each person they employ – and that figure is rising, as subsidies outstrip job creation within the industry, new analysis has found. 15,500 people are now directly employed by the wind farm industry, both on and off-shore, whilst subsidies have hit a record £1.8 billion a year, the Telegraph has reported.
Last year, around 12,000 people were employed within the industry, which was subsidised to the tune of £1.2 billion, meaning that each job cost £100,000 in subsidies. That figure has risen as more money has been poured into off-shore wind, which is more costly than the on-shore equivalent.
But according to Renewable UK, a wind lobby group, there has actually been a slight reduction in the number of off-shore wind jobs, thanks to an anticipated slow-down in construction next year. On-shore wind still employs the majority of people in the sector: 8,679 people work on on-shore wind farm projects, against 6,746 who work on off-shore projects. By comparison, there were just 9,000 people working in the whole industry just four years ago.
The increased subsidy rate stems from the fact that off-shore projects are starting to generate power, raking in far higher subsidies in the process than their on-shore cousins.
John Constable of the Renewable Energy Foundation, which calculated the subsidy total, said: “Large numbers of soft, subsidised, jobs in the wind energy sector is nothing to boast about; it indicates low productivity and high cost energy, which of course destroys real jobs in the rest of the economy.
“What we really want is a high productivity energy sector with a small number of well-paid, highly skilled employees, producing cheap energy that creates fundamentally viable employment in the rest of the economy.”
Maf Smith, deputy chief executive of Renewable UK, said: “Green jobs are important because they are high-value jobs. But over time it’s clear that the technologies we choose to get our power from we will choose because they are most cost effective and help us tackle climate change.
“You can’t assume the reason we are generating this power is just employment: the main reason we are generating this power is to keep the lights on and make sure we are less dependent on imports. In doing that we also need to maximise economic benefits to the UK.”
Mr Smith claims that the subsidy cost per job would decrease with time, highlighting a new Siemens factory opening in Hull in 2016 which is set to provide 1,000 jobs. “As the industry invests and we see the manufacturing jobs come through the job benefits will be even clearer,” he said.
However, Spain’s experiment in subsidising green jobs was shown as far back as 2010 to have been a failure. Both the Juan de Mariana Institute’s – and the government’s own figures showed that for every green job created, 2.2 were lost in the general economy thanks to the higher costs of energy and subsidies taking money out of the economy.
And responding to a Centre for American Progress report which claimed in 2009 that spending $100billion on green jobs would directly create 935,200 new positions, Roger Meiners and Andrew Morriss of the Property and Enviroment Research Centre said that the figures imply: “a cost of $107,000 per new job created. Most people could go to a state university full time for four years for that sum.
“Either the funds for these programs were taken from the pockets of people who now have $100 billion less to spend on other things, causing an economic contraction in those other areas, or it is a bill passed on to the grandchildren of today’s taxpayers in the form of deficit spending. These costs are real and must be considered in any debate.”
Yet Energy Minister Ed Davey is determined to press on, saying: “The energy sector is powering Britain’s economic recovery – and the jobs created in the wind industry show why Britain’s the global number one for offshore wind capacity and investment.”