The government has unveiled a long-term strategy that it says will add weight to the UK’s already dominant position in the offshore wind industry, while potentially boosting the economy by £7 billion by 2020.
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and energy secretary Ed Davey revealed the plans at the official opening of the 270 megawatt (MW) Lincs wind farm, just off the coast of Skegness in Lincolnshire.
The strategy includes a £20m investment from the Regional Growth Fund for a new programme designed to support the UK’s offshore wind supply chain, and £46m over five years to help bring innovative products to a commercial stage.
Clegg said, “The race is now on to lead the world in clean, green energy. As an island nation, and with our weather, the UK is ideally placed to make the most of offshore wind energy – you could say it was a technology designed for us.”
He added that the strategy “will help keep Britain as the world leader in one of the most important industries of the 21st century”.
The plans have been largely welcomed by the industry and campaigners, though many have said the government now needs to go further in backing clean energy.
Rhian Kelly, CBI director for business environment, said, “The UK has one of the most ambitious forward programmes for offshore wind in the world and this strategy highlights the need to strengthen domestic supply chains to capture as much value from this as possible.
“Further detail is now needed around the implementation of the energy bill to complement the strategy and unlock the big investments in this sector that will support UK jobs and growth.”
Greenpeace chief scientist Doug Parr, who also welcomed the strategy, added that the government’s failure to set a 2030 decarbonisation target “sends a contradictory message to businesses”. He questioned how serious ministers really were about wind power.
Meanwhile, Maria McCaffery chief executive of trade body RenewableUK, said, “This document is a blueprint for green collar job creation which, as long as its recommendations are fully implemented, will ensure that Britain reaps the once-in-a-lifetime benefits offered by our world-leading offshore wind sector.”
At the beginning of July, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) approved plans to build “the world’s largest offshore wind farm” off the coast of Lincolnshire and Norfolk. This was just a week after officially opening London Array – the current holder of that title.
A study in May by the World Wind Energy Association (WWEA) said the UK currently dominated the offshore wind sector with a 74% stake in the market. This was followed shortly after with the publication of Ernst & Young’s latest Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Indices (RECAI), which said the UK was the most attractive country in the world for offshore wind investment, and the fifth most attractive for renewable energy more generally.
RenewableUK added that the official opening of Lincs wind farm meant the UK now had 5.5 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind installed – enough to power 5.5m homes.