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Employment prediction and methodology

Methodological approaches to employment quantification

The quantification of wind energy employment is a difficult task for several reasons. Firstly, it encompasses many company profiles, such as equipment manufacturing, electricity generation, consulting services, finance and insurance, which belong to different economic sectors. Secondly, we cannot rely on any existing statistics to estimate wind energy figures, as they do not distinguish between electricity or equipment manufacturing branches. Finally, the structure of the sector changes fast and historical data cannot be easily updated to reflect the current situation.

For these reasons, measurement initiatives must rely on a number of methodologies which, can largely be grouped under two headings:

  • Data collection based on surveys and complemented by other written evidence
  • Data collection based on estimated relationships between sectors, vectors of activity and input-output tables

are the best way to collect information on direct employment, especially when additional aspects - gender issues, employment profiles, length of contracts and other qualitative information - need to be incorporated. Surveys have significant limitations, notably the correct identification of the units that need to be studied and the low percentage of responses (see i.e. Rubio, M.J. and Varas, J., 1999; Schuman and Stanley, 1996; Weisberg et al 1996). When these problems arise, results need to be extrapolated and completed by other means.

Estimated relationships,

including input-output tables, can be used to estimate both direct and indirect employment impacts. These models require some initial information, collected by means of a questionnaire and/or expert interviews, but then work on the basis of technical coefficients (Leontief, 1986; Kulisic et al, 2007). The advantages of estimated models are based on the fact that they reflect net economic changes in the sector that is being studied, other related economic sectors and the whole of the economic system.

These models also constitute the basis for the formulation of forecasts. The disadvantages relate to the cost of carrying out such studies, and the need to obtain an appropriate model. In addition, they do not provide any details at sub-sector level and do not capture gender-related, qualification and shortage issues.

In the last six or seven years, coinciding with the boom of the wind energy sector, several studies have been conducted with the related employment repercussions. A list of the most relevant works can be found in Appendix J.

A careful revision of their methodology shows that many of them are, in reality, a meta-analysis (that is to say, a critical re-examination and comparison of earlier works), while research based on questionnaires and/or I-O tables is less common. Denmark, Germany and Spain, being the three world leaders in wind energy production and installation, display solid studies (AEE, 2007; DWIA, 2008; Lehr et al, 2008 and Federal Ministry of the Environment, BMU 2008), but the employment in the other EU markets remains largely unknown. In particular, there is a lack of information on some key features affecting the wind energy labour market, such as the profiles that are currently in demand, shortage and gender issues. These issues can best be dealt through ad hoc questionnaires sent to wind energy companies.

EWEA survey on direct employment

As a response to the gaps mentioned above, EWEA has sought to quantify the number of people directly employed by the wind energy sector in Europe by means of a questionnaire. As explained in Wind energy employment in Europe, direct jobs relate to employment within wind turbine manufacturing companies and sub-contractors whose main activity is the supply of wind turbine components. Also taken into account are wind energy promoters, utilities selling electricity from wind energy and major R&D, engineering and specialised wind energy services. Any other company producing intermediates, components, providing services or sporadically working in wind-related activities is deemed as providing indirect employment.

The analysts have attempted to minimise the main disadvantages linked to this type of methodology. Consequently, the questionnaire was drafted after careful analysis of previous research in this field, notably the questionnaires that had been used in the German, Danish and Spanish studies, and following a discussion with the researchers responsible for them. A draft was sent to a reduced number of respondents, who then commented on any difficulties understanding the questions and using the Excel spreadsheet, the length of the questionnaire and some other aspects. The document was modified accordingly.

The final version of the questionnaire was dispatched by e-mail on 19 February 2008 to around 1,100 organisations in 30 countries (the 27-EU Member States plus Croatia, Norway and Turkey). It reached all EWEA members and the members of the EU-27 national wind energy associations. The questionnaire was also distributed among participants of the last two European Wind Energy Conferences (EWEC 2006 and 2007). These included:

  • wind turbine and component manufacturers;
  • developers;
  • independent power producers and utilities;
  • installation, repair and O&M companies;
  • consultancies;
  • engineering and legal services;
  • R&D centres;
  • laboratories and universities;
  • financial institutions and insurers;
  • wind energy agencies and associations, and
  • other interest groups directly involved in wind energy matters.

The document was translated into five EU languages (English, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese), and a number of national wind energy associations decided to write the introductory letter in their own languages. A reminder was sent out on 11 March, followed up by telephone calls during April, May, June, July and August.

The questionnaire consisted of 14 questions, divided into three blocks:

  • The first four questions collected information on the profile of the company, its field of activity and the year in which it started operating in the wind energy sector.
  • The next three questions aimed to obtain relevant employment figures. The questionnaire requested both the total number of employees and the number of employees in the wind energy sector, and gave some indication about how to calculate the second figure when a worker was not devoted to wind-related activities full time. The figures were divided up by country, since some companies are trans-national, and by sex. It would have been interesting to classify this data by age and level of qualification, but the draft sent to a sample of respondents showed us that this level of detail would be very difficult to obtain and that it would have had a negative impact on the number of replies.
  • The final four questions addressed the issue of labour force scarcity in the wind energy sector, and aimed to obtain information on the profiles that are in short supply and the prospects of wind energy companies in terms of future employment levels and profiles. Questions 9 and 10 were more speculative since it is difficult to quantify the exact employment demands in the next five years, but they gave an order of magnitude that could then be compared with the quantitative approaches used by other researchers that applied input-output tables.

The questionnaire was complemented by in-depth interviews with a selection of stakeholders that suitably reflected the main wind energy sub-sectors and EU countries. The interviews were carried out by phone, e-mail or face-to-face. They were aimed at verifying the data obtained from the questionnaires and at addressing some of the topics that could not be dealt with, notably a more thorough explanation of the job profiles demanded by the industry and the scarcity problem.

By the end of August 2008, 324 valid questionnaires had been received, implying a rate of responses of around 30%. When looking at the size of the companies that replied, it is clear that most large turbine and component manufacturers, as well as the major utilities answered the questionnaire, implying that the percentage of jobs they reported was higher (around 60%) than  suggested by the analysis by number of replies.

Table 7.3: EWEA survey results , source EWEA:

Country Nr. of direct jobs
Austria 270
Belgium 1,161
Bulgaria 91
Cyprus 1
Czech Republic 52
Denmark 9,875
Estonia 5
Finland 194
France 2,076
Germany 17,246
Greece 812
Hungary 11
Ireland 870
Italy 1,048
Latvia 6
Lithuania 6
The Netherlands 824
Poland 312
Portugal 425
Romania 27
Slovakia 22
Slovenia 4
Spain 10,986
Sweden 1,234
United Kingdom 2,753
Rest of Europe 70
TOTAL 50,380


Figure 7.2: Number of questionnaires received by type of company, source EWEA, 2008.

The figures are impressive for this type of survey, but supplementary sources need to be used to fill in the gaps and validate results. This has been done in several ways:

  • The use of thematic surveys and I-O analysis carried out in Denmark, France, Germany and Spain. The latter two countries base their numbers on questionnaires very similar to the ones used by EWEA, an exhaustive analysis of the governmental registers for tax-related purposes and the application of national input-output tables and other technical coefficients to estimate the indirect effects. The Danish Wind Industry Association, in turn, collects information about employment from all its members on an annual basis and then predicts indirect and induced jobs through technical coefficients and multipliers. ADEME bases its estimates on net production/ employment ratios (imports have been disregarded).
  • The review of the annual reports/websites of the main wind energy companies, notably the large wind energy manufacturers, component manufacturers, wind energy developers and utilities. As these companies are active in the stock market, they publish some information on their activities and structure that can be used to estimate wind energy figures.
  • The registers and the expertise gained by the national wind energy associations. France, the UK and Portugal are currently carrying out thematic studies covering, among other things, employment issues. Their preliminary conclusions have been incorporated into this report. In other cases, experts from the national associations and governments have been contacted.

Additionally, EWEA is engaged in an in-depth examination of the factors that are behind the repeatedly reported shortage of workers in the wind energy business and the profiles that are particularly difficult to find. This has been done through in-depth interviews (conducted face-to-face, by e-mail and by phone) with the Human Resources managers of a selection of wind energy companies from the different branches and geographical areas. The results were compared with those of the answers to questions 7 to 10 of the general questionnaire.

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