One of the UK’s top energy and environment economists has warned that the government’s promise that green energy policies will create tens of thousands of jobs and stimulate competitive industries is an illusion.
In a report, The Myth of Green Jobs, published yesterday by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Professor Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University challenged a number of assumptions.
He says government targets for generating electricity from renewable sources will involve a capital cost nine to ten times the amount required to meet the same demand by relying on conventional power plants.
He also claims the extra investment required for renewable energy – about £120 billion – will be diverted from more productive uses.
Hughes, who was a senior adviser on energy and environmental policy at the World Bank until 2001, argues that increases in the cost of energy together with the diversion of investment funds means that many manufacturing firms will either go bankrupt or relocate and argues that it is impossible for the UK to acquire a long-term comparative advantage in the manufacture of renewable energy equipment by any combination of policies that are both feasible and affordable.
Policies to promote renewable energy could add up to 0.7 percentage points per year to core inflation from now to 2020, he says and asserts that the cumulative impact of these policies could amount to a loss of 2 to 3 per cent of potential GDP for a period of 20 years or more.
“Claims by politicians and lobbyists that green energy policies will create a few thousand jobs are not supported by the evidence,” argues Hughes, who has advised governments on environmental policies and was responsible for some of the World Bank’s most important environmental guidelines.
“The gains for a small number of actual or potential employees in businesses specialising in renewable energy has to be weighed against the dismal prospects for a much larger group of workers in the rest of the manufacturing sector.”
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