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Energy policies 'put jobs at risk'

Policies to encourage the development of renewable energy risk destroying tens of thousands of jobs in the UK, a green group has claimed.

The director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, John Constable, argued that hopes that the low-carbon economy will deliver thousands of "green-collar" jobs are "staggeringly far-fetched".

In a pamphlet published by thinktank Civitas, Mr Constable said that the UK's £5 billion subsidy to renewable electricity generators over the period 2002-2010 amounts to £230,000 per worker in the wind industry. Each job in the wind industry was subsidised to the tune of £54,000 in 2009/10, he said.

Subsidising low-carbon technology in this way harms the UK's international competitiveness and provides a "premature reward for unready technologies", actively discouraging the kind of innovation that is essential for more effective low-carbon technologies to be developed in the future, said Mr Constable.

His report, The Green Mirage, cited models developed for the European Commission which suggested that the EU's climate policies will have only "slight" benefits for GDP and employment by 2020, but that these will not be felt by Britain.

The Commission's study suggested that Spain would gain 120,000 jobs under current green policies, rising to more than 150,000 if subsidies are increased, the report said. But Britain stands to lose 10,000 jobs under the current anti-global warming regime, potentially rising to 30,000 if policies are accelerated.

"Far from re-energising Britain's economy, the 'green economy' will drain investment from other sectors, making Britons pay more for electricity indefinitely and live less productive lives with access to fewer jobs," wrote Mr Constable.

A spokesman for industry body RenewablesUK said that the figures used by Mr Constable were not a reliable guide to the future prospects for green energy in the UK. Developments over the past decade were largely focused on on-shore wind technology, where the UK had been left behind. But in the coming years, investment was expected to be directed towards off-shore wind, where Britain is set to be a market leader, he said.

A Government spokesman said: "Increasing the amount of renewable energy we produce in Britain won't only help our energy security, but will create new business and job opportunities for the economy.

"Just in June of this year, the industry announced over £2.3 billion of investment and the creation of around 2,500 jobs in the renewable energy sector. Our energy policies are focused on making sure we avoid costly blackouts and keep the lights on in the cheapest, cleanest way, so that UK homes and businesses can benefit from a more secure energy mix rather than remaining at the mercy of the fluctuating price for imported fossil fuels."

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