Recent changes to renewable energy policy implemented by Westminster will undoubtedly have a knock-on effect, not just in the renewables sector, but in the wider raft of contractors who contribute to the industry as a whole. Latest predictions suggest around 20,000 potential job losses in the solar industry alone, but has anyone sought to calculate the effect on other industries such as manufacturing, haulage, groundworks, solar panel and wind turbine installation, ecology, planning consultancies and, closest to our hearts of course, the heritage consultancy and archaeological fieldwork sectors? All of these industries and many more contribute to both the local and national economy.
At AH we have seen a sudden and fairly alarming drop-off in desk based assessment and heritage statement work – much of our turnover has traditionally been within the wind and solar energy markets, two sectors really at the core of the company’s set-up in the first place. We assume we, as a heritage consultancy, are not alone in this – and whilst we have no figures, we assume similar reductions in turnover in the other related industries mentioned earlier.
Not only will the new policy result in substantial job losses with almost one million fewer solar schemes being installed by 2020, it will also serve to increase the UK’s annual carbon emissions by 1.6 million tonnes. It will mean it will take longer than 20 years for solar panels to pay for themselves, and only those with thousands of pounds of disposable income will be able to install them. Most private residents, schools, council tenants and community groups will be forced out of the renewable energy revolution, with only an estimated £6 per year reduction in annual household bills as a result.
This proposal will leave the UK trailing behind in the global solar revolution, and needlessly threaten jobs that will be vital to our future low-carbon economy, and the short and long-term survival of many small businesses.
We are obviously seeking to mitigate this, through further diversification into other planning-related markets but it will not be an easy transition. Whilst the reduction in the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) - the scheme which supports small scale renewables - was always on the cards, the dramatic and draconian manner in which they were introduced earlier this year was both unexpected and unprecedented.
We would urge the government to rethink this policy and consider the points raised above. We would also urge our friends and colleagues in the heritage and archaeology industry to petition their MPs, as we have done, to request a broader debate and public consultation on these issues. Surely there is a better way forward than this, for both the UK economy and the environment.