John Storey recently started working for Prospect as its renewable energy projects organiser. Here he writes about his early weeks in the job and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
My remit is to work across all of our membership in renewable energy, including generation, operations, consulting and research and development.
I am also building our membership and organisation, so that we can improve members’ working conditions, ensuring that the transition to zero carbon generation continues, and that workers affected by the change can switch to equivalent roles.
I’ve been privileged to meet many Prospect members and representatives since starting. It is absolutely clear that meeting the climate change challenge will not happen without Prospect members using their expertise, and having their voice heard by industry and government.
I am building strategies for each of our branches, along with an overall sector strategy. There has been significant progress in the UK in decarbonising electricity, with renewable electricity rising from 11% in 2012 to 33.3% in 2018.
However, this has all happened despite the lack of a coherent government strategy.
As recent power outages have shown, significant investment is required to ensure that further increases in renewable generation actually happen, and that the grid is able to cope with embedded generation and the challenges of incorporating intermittent energy sources.
Additionally, public R&D investment into renewables fell again in 2018 according to data from the International Energy Agency.
According to our members, there are also issues with high workloads and long hours, and it is recognised that there remains a skills shortage that has not been fully addressed. This has a potential impact on safety, and we need trade union involvement at industry safety bodies.
We also call on the government to consider direct public investment in energy infrastructure, which, as well as ensuring that infrastructure is actually built, can also be used to ensure that more of the economic benefits flow to UK companies, suppliers and communities.
There is a huge opportunity, for both decarbonisation, and creation of new jobs.
However, a just transition will not just happen by leaving it to market mechanisms. It needs clear plans, strong trade unions, and government investment. As a recent Prospect study has shown, jobs in renewable energy fell by 30% between 2014 and 2017.
The other key challenges are how do we decarbonise transport and heat? We have the technology to make this happen, but infrastructure and skills investment has been lacking.
We believe that public investment is required to accelerate roll out of renewables, ensure that drops in private investment do not affect progress, and that economic benefits flow to the UK supply chain and local communities.
I’m looking to meet as many members as possible, and I’m very keen to hear your views about how we ensure that high quality, sustainable jobs are created, and our voice is listened to.
I encourage everyone to sign up to our newsletter, and I would be delighted to hear from you directly.
Contact John: firstname.lastname@example.org