How the government’s net-zero investment plans could create thousands of green energy jobs
In case you hadn’t heard, the future is very much green.
It is now nearly a year and a half on from the UK government’s announcement of what was billed as a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ that promised to make the country carbon neutral by 2050. In terms of scope and promise, we’ve never seen anything quite like it in the battle to combat the effects of climate change.
But with the deadline still twenty-eight years away, it can be easy to lose sight of the here and now. What do we know about the government’s grand green plan and how many green energy jobs might we see from it?
What is the Green Industrial Revolution?
In November 2020 the government set out a ten-point plan known as the ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ that sought to rebuild the economy after the shattering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While it’s not exactly clear just how much is to be invested to transform Britain into a carbon-neutral country, or exactly where it will be coming from, the treasury has spoken of a figure of £90 billion that will be unlocked over the next decade.
It’s thought that the plan will incorporate an expansion of electric vehicles and charging points, more offshore wind farms, and large-scale investment in green technologies such as hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuel. It’s also believed that at least one new nuclear power station is on the horizon – but with nuclear, you never really know.
There will also be an expansion of public transport and cycle routes around the country, while homes across Britain will be offered heat pumps, which are seen as greener alternatives to the traditional gas boilers.
How many green jobs will it create?
If things go according to plan, the UK could benefit from several hundred thousand new green jobs as a result of the plan. The figure initially put out by the government is 220,000 jobs over the next decade, but as we move forward towards the 2050 target, that number is likely to rise quite considerably.
It’s impossible to know what the future holds – just look at the world’s current predicament – but it’s safe to assume that as the country moves to become carbon neutral, the number of jobs that are deemed green, or ‘environmentally responsible’, will likely skyrocket.
However, it is worth pointing out that these job gains will almost certainly be offset by job losses in certain sectors. It’s difficult to predict what jobs will and will not exist in the future, but positions such as taxi drivers, lorry drivers, bank tellers, and certain factory employees are just a few that many believe will be greatly affected in the future.
Where will the new jobs be?
Again, another difficult one to predict with complete accuracy, but we do at least have a few rough ideas. It goes without saying that it will be sectors involved in existing or emerging green technologies that will benefit the most.
The government announced that around 8,000 of the initial 60,000 jobs to be created will be within industries focused on developing low carbon hydrogen, a practice that remains hugely expensive but could be a viable answer to our needs in the future.
Carbon capture is another field that looks set to boom under the Green Industrial Revolution. There have been some tentative and successful pilot projects around the world and the UK government has pledged to finally kickstart this long-overdue industry.
The UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology is set to receive £4.5 million early on to restore the Welsh peatlands and to explore their potential for huge amounts of carbon storage and, if successful, it’s likely other projects, and therefore jobs, will follow.
The electric car industry will almost certainly see a rise in its workforce but it remains to be seen whether these jobs will simply be pulled from the existing car manufacturing sector. If Britain decides to push ahead with further nuclear power stations, this will provide a significant number of jobs, but again, this may be offset by jobs lost within the fossil fuel sector which will need to be phased out.
A Green Job Boom?
The Green Industrial Revolution will no doubt provide a surge in employment, but it’s unclear just how dramatic this will be, especially over nearly three decades. However, it does seem clear that most industries relating to green innovation will see substantial job creation in the near future.
It is perfectly conceivable that unemployment rates will stay steady or fluctuate only slightly over time as the winners and losers of the Green Industrial Revolution emerge, but industries such as those creating electric vehicles, wind turbines, and solar panels, as well as those exploring groundbreaking technologies like carbon capture, low carbon hydrogen, and cleaner nuclear energy, are likely to see the greatest job growth.