THE number of people employed in Scotland’s burgeoning renewables industry has soared to record levels.
A report published today reveals a 5 per cent growth in employment in companies involved in offshore and onshore wind, bioenergy and hydro, wave and tidal schemes across the country.
The report, commissioned by Scottish Renewables, shows that more than 540 Scottish-based firms now employ a total of at least 11,695 men and women.
The majority – 54 per cent – are employed in companies based in the Central Belt, with another 17 per cent working in the Highlands and Islands and 14 per cent in the North east. According to the independent survey by technology and innovation consultancy O’Herlihy and Co, the most people are employed by the onshore and offshore wind sectors at 5,239 workers, followed by bioenergy (835 jobs), wave and tidal power (805) and hydro (649).
Joss Blamire, senior policy manager for industry trade body Scottish Renewables, said: “These latest figures show the renewables industry has seen steady growth in the number of people being employed, despite an uncertain year.
“The breadth of job opportunities for project managers, ecologists and engineers has led to a wide range of people seeing renewable energy as a sector where they can use their skills.”
He said the statistics represented a higher rate of growth in employment compared to the Scottish economy as a whole.
The report also reveals that more than half the companies surveyed are planning to increase their workforce in the next year. The report states: “This is a very powerful finding and indicates that the renewable energy sector is both optimistic about growth and planning to expand significantly.”
Mr Blamire warned, however, that the industry could not afford to become complacent. “The survey also found that market reforms in the electricity sector, planning issues and connecting projects to the grid were all cited as potential barriers that could get in the way of future growth,” he said.
Sam Gardner, head of policy with environmental campaign group WWF Scotland, welcomed the findings. He said: “This report underlines the fact that not only is Scotland’s renewable sector cutting climate emissions and meeting 40 per cent of our electricity needs, it is also an increasingly important employer across Scotland.”
While welcoming the report, Scottish Labour’s finance spokesman, Iain Gray, warned: “Scotland receives around a third of the available UK subsidies for renewables despite having less than 10 per cent of the population. If independence were to become a reality we cannot assume the costs of developing renewable energy in Scotland would continue to be borne by consumers across the UK.”
Fergus Ewing, Scotland’s Energy Minister, said: “These latest statistics show that Scotland has a thriving sector offering desirable career prospects.”