Green shoots and leaves: Creative Commons image from http://photoeverywhere.co.uk

We may still feel we’re weathering the winter of our discontent, but look! Are shoots of green appearing? Recent news on the green economy looks promising, and there is more to come.

Of course it’s a bit early for getting out the picnic blanket, as this is still very much a business sector in its infancy, with just under 11,000 employees. But it might be okay to start looking out the window now and then, as RenewableUK announces a 91 per cent rise in UK wind energy employment between 2007/8 and 2009/10 – at the height of the recession.

The most encouraging news from the trade body’s announcement is that the industry appears to be defying recessionary trends. In a period when overall UK employment has shrunk by 3.4 per cent, this new industry is actually growing.

RenewableUK CEO, Maria McCaffery MBE, points out that jobs in renewables are an obvious consequence of the drive towards grid decarbonisation that we’ve talked about quite a few times here (occasionally getting in the odd reference to a cup of tea). This is a reality.

McCaffery said: “The increase in jobs has, to a large extent, mirrored the increase in electricity contributions from renewable sources, chiefly wind, to the grid. Latest statistics for quarter 3 in 2010 show the total share of renewable electricity at 8.6 per cent, divided in equal parts between wind (at around 4 per cent) and all other sources, compared to 2008, when the total share of electricity from wind was around 2 per cent.”

At the same time, Friends of the Earth are getting Welsh economists all wild-eyed with talk of boosting the waste-to-energy and recycling industries across five local authority areas – Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen – and bringing thousands of jobs.

The report suggests a wealth of business start-ups and social enterprises by local talent could make the valleys even greener than they are already.

So, green shoots aplenty, even on a winter’s day. And as the grid decarbonises, microgeneration goes more mainstream, businesses realise that going green means going for gold, and the building industry finds more ways to build energy-efficiency into our homes – let’s hope we get that glorious summer. And let the wind ripple those green leaves…