Energy efficiency, green jobs, and more

14 Nov 2014

Following the successful launch of UKERC's report Low Carbon Jobs earlier in the month, we asked Joanne Wade to reflect on its broader implications.

Investment in energy efficiency creates jobs. UKERC's report Low Carbon Jobs, released last week, confirms what many of us have been saying for quite some time now (at Association for the Conservation of Energy, we published on energy efficiency and employment back in 2000): if the government want to take action that tackles the current shortage of employment, investing in sustainable energy infrastructure, on both sides of the meter, is a pretty good way to go about it.

Of course, it isn't quite as simple as that. The UKERC report points out that employment impacts in the longer term will depend on the state of the economy, and the balance between public and private investment.  The authors suggest that ‘the proper domain for the debate about the long term role of renewable energy and energy efficiency is the wider framework of energy and environmental policy…’ Arguably, both economic and social policy should be added to this framework.

It is fortunate then that we have the recently published Energy Bill Revolution report, Building the Future. Based on modelling by Cambridge Econometrics, the report demonstrates how investment in home energy efficiency, using a mix of public and private money, would – yes – create jobs (108,000 of them) in the short to medium term and also increase UK GDP, deliver lower household energy bills, cut gas imports by 25 per cent and lead to net carbon emissions reductions. Through either lens – green jobs or wider policy goals – this looks pretty good. The International Energy Agency also recently published their work on the multiple benefits of energy efficiency, and UKERC’s April 2014 report on Energy Strategies Under Uncertainty noted the benefits of energy efficiency in mitigating consumer exposure to the energy security risks associated with fossil fuel dependency.

How disappointing therefore that the UK government chose to block the proposed EU binding ‘30% by 2030’ energy efficiency target at last month’s Council meeting.  And scaled back the level of activity under the Energy Company Obligation. And closed Warm Front – the only nationwide, publicly funded investment programme tackling fuel poverty in England.  How much more evidence do they need?

Perhaps the message is beginning to get through. The Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats have both emphasised energy efficiency as an infrastructure priority in recent policy announcements. We wait to see whether the other parties will follow with similar evidence-based policy making.

Dr Joanne Wade is Director, Association for the Conservation of Energy.