Scotland leads low-carbon economy

19th May 2016

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Scotland has a higher percentage of businesses engaged in the low carbon and renewable energy (LCRE) sector than other parts of the UK, according to latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS surveyed UK businesses to determine the size of the sector, which includes low-carbon electricity and heat, energy from waste and biomass, energy efficiency products, low-carbon services and low-emissions vehicles.

It found that the sector contained around 96,500 businesses in 2014, equivalent to 4.4% of all non-financial businesses. These firms had a cumulative turnover £46.2bn and employed 238,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, according to the ONS report.

Eight thousand Scottish companies reported operating in the LCRE sector, equivalent to 5.3% of all non-financial businesses in Scotland. The Scottish sector was also estimated to be responsible for a greater proportion of turnover, accounting for 2.4% (£5.6bn) of all turnover generated in the country’s economy. The sector employed around 21,500 people in FTE roles.

In England, 83,000 businesses, or 4.4% of all non-financial businesses, were active in the LCRE sector in 2014. They generated turnover of £37.6bn, accounting for 1.2% of all non-financial turnover generated in England, and employed 201,000 people, the ONS estimated.

Meanwhile, there were around 3,500 LCRE companies in Wales in 2014, equivalent to 3.9% of all non-financial businesses. They accounted for turnover of £2bn turnover, or 1.9% of the Welsh economy, and employed 9,500 FTEs.

Northern Ireland had 2,000 businesses in the sector, equivalent to 3.2% of all non-financial businesses. These firms generated £1bn in 2014 or 1.6% of the country’s overall turnover and employed 6,500 people.

The survey was the first from the ONS to measure the low-carbon economy. The statistician’s report also breaks down the number of businesses and employees in each type of low-carbon activity. It plans to publish estimates of indirect LCRE activity later this year.

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: ‘These figures underline the importance of low-carbon businesses to Scotland and the rest of the UK, by helping grow our economy and creating jobs. However, if we are to enjoy the multiple benefits of the transition to a zero-carbon future we need our political leaders to commit to a renewable energy future by bringing forward the policies to realise our potential.

‘For example, Scotland could become the EU's first fully renewable electricity nation by 2030. But this will only happen if Scottish ministers commit to this ambition and ensure their forthcoming energy strategy majors on renewable power, flexibility, demand reduction, and energy storage.’

Meanwhile, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a new post of cabinet secretary for the environment, climate change and land reform as part of a reshuffle. Roseanna Cunningham moves from the role of cabinet secretary for fair work, skills and training. She was previously minister for environment and climate change, and led the wildlife and natural environment bill through the Scottish parliament.

As well as climate change, Cunningham will be responsible for flood prevention, water quality, physical and marine environment, sustainable development, biodiversity, natural heritage and national parks.


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