Analysis: Green jobs could support ‘levelling up’ agenda

Investing in low-carbon jobs offers huge potential for ‘levelling up’ the UK, finds ECIU analysis

By George Smeeton

Information on this page correct as of:

Investing in low-carbon jobs offers huge potential for ‘levelling up’ the UK, offsetting the damage done to local economies and jobs through coronavirus, finds new analysis.

The analysis, by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), shows that many of the areas hit hardest by the Covid lockdown offer the biggest opportunity for job creation in areas such as home energy retrofits and electric vehicle charging rollout.

Regions include the northwest and southwest of England and the West Midlands, including many of the so-called ‘Red Wall’ constituencies that proved pivotal in the 2019 General Election, where indicators of unemployment such as uptake of furlough funding and the proportion of homes in fuel poverty both run well above the national average.

Jess Ralston, Analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) and the report’s author, said: “Many deprived areas were suffering long before coronavirus, but now have the added pressures of increased unemployment and the economic shocks of lockdown.

“Home retrofits for energy efficiency and low carbon heat, renewables and electric vehicles offer crucial ‘Red Wall’ areas that have been hardest hit a chance to build back better, giving a welcome jobs boost to areas that need it most.

“Towns targeted by Government for ‘levelling up’ would benefit especially from retrofit schemes as they have both a high proportion of houses that do not meet the Government's energy efficiency targets and a high proportion of skilled workers who can do the work.”

Analysis shows that the gross added value (GVA) and full time equivalent (FTEs) jobs created through accelerating the roll out of energy efficiency and low carbon heat would more than offset GVA lost during coronavirus and create tens of thousands of jobs in regions that have struggled to progress.

Speaking at the ECIU media briefing at which the analysis was launched, Emily Braham, Director at EnergieSprong and Head of Sustainability for Nottingham City Homes, said: “It’s important to remember that the majority of these are local jobs, taken by local people with a varying degree of skill requirement. And the ripple effects span much further than just the company delivering the retrofit. We rely on small businesses for our supply chains, and other construction firms to enable us to do our job by preparing the site for us.

“We’re delivering these projects right now during the pandemic, and our workers have done a brilliant job of streamlining the process to abide by social distancing rules. It really is a no brainer.

“But if we’re to give all these workers the future-proofed jobs they deserve, we need a longer-term plan from the government which should start with a strong commitment in the economic recovery package.”

Covid-19 has hit construction particularly hard, with more than 40% of all support for the self-employed disbursed in the sector. The ECIU analysis also shows that giving the go-ahead to 737 ‘shovel-ready’ renewable electricity projects – that is planning permission granted, awaiting construction – mainly in the North East and North West and Wales would provide lifelong jobs in places where unemployment rates are high.

Another speaker at the ECIU media briefing, Tony Wilson, Director of the Institute for Employment Studies, said: “This crisis is affecting the whole country, but it’s clear that the labour market is toughest in many of our ex-industrial, inner city and coastal communities. So we need to invest now to support jobs growth and to help those out of work to get back to work, and we need to ensure that this investment helps to close the gap in those areas that are at risk of being left behind.

“Clean industry, such as energy efficiency or renewables, are a great opportunity to do this – as they can create jobs across the country, wherever people live, and with a range of skill levels so that people can enter, stay and progress in work.”

Speaker Ben Houchen, Conservative Mayor of the Tees Valley, agreed: “Serious support for Net Zero Teesside and other hydrogen and clean growth projects is not just essential for the Nation’s economic recovery, but for every single present and future manufacturing job in the UK. With it, we can lead the world in clean technology and decarbonisation, without it our future is one of decline and despair,” he said.

“This is why the Government needs to bring forward its £800 million for carbon capture, to unlock Net Zero 5600 new jobs in my region and many thousands elsewhere.”

To download the analysis, click here.