“We can build new UK industry from offshore wind revolution” says BWEA

“We can build new UK industry from offshore wind revolution” says BWEA

‘Round Three’ of offshore wind farm allocations to increase world market by 20 times

  • Announcement by The Crown Estate welcomed, but Govt action needed to win manufacturing base for UK.
  • Up to 45,000 UK based jobs could be created in new coastal manufacturing hubs by 2020.
  • Grid upgrades must be approved to avoid delays in the build-out of new offshore wind farms.

BWEA, the trade body for the UK wind and marine renewables industries, today welcomed The Prime Minister’s announcement of the next generation of offshore wind farms. The industry body called on the Government to ensure that UK manufacturing benefits through support for skills and training, the identification of coastal manufacturing hubs and upgrades to the UK’s electricity grid.

Today’s announcement of nine vast new offshore wind farm zones with a total capacity of 32GW would, if fully developed, be enough to power every home in the UK. With between 5,000-6,000 turbines installed Round 3 would result in carbon savings of between 40 – 80 million tonnes annually.

Maria McCaffery MBE, BWEA Chief Executive said: "Today’s announcement is a major leap forward in realising the potential for clean, green energy production through wind power: it sets the UK apart as the leading offshore wind energy producer not only in Europe but worldwide both in terms of total potential power generation from offshore, and the scale of new, green-collar employment opportunity."

Despite the UK’s lead in offshore wind energy generation the UK currently trails behind other leading wind energy producing countries – particularly Germany, Denmark and Spain – in manufacturing, design and supply chain jobs. Key to securing thousands of new skilled green-collar jobs is attracting new investment in offshore wind technology manufacturing to the UK.

Offshore wind currently represents only 1% of the worldwide wind market, which has annual turbine sales of $60bn. This new development signals an enormous step change in global demand for offshore wind, which will stimulate large scale new manufacturing investment. To attract that inward investment into Britain BWEA argues that the Government needs to lead on upgrades to UK ports to provide state-of-the-art quayside facilities and create coastal manufacturing and research hubs for manufacturers (similar to the way in which coastal hubs were created for the offshore oil and gas industry in Aberdeen and the German offshore wind industry in Bremerhaven). With new turbine assembly plants in UK ports, domestic manufacturers would be able to enter the component supply market for gearboxes, bearings and castings.

In 2008, a BWEA-commissioned report from Bain & Co revealed that if 20GW of offshore wind were developed in UK waters by 2020 and two-thirds of the manufacturing took place in the UK it would mean the creation of 45,000 UK based jobs in manufacturing, operations and maintenance.

Over the next decade a full third of the UK’s existing power stations will be permanently decommissioned as ageing nuclear facilities and polluting coal and oil stations are taken off line. With the new generation of nuclear unlikely to be ready before 2020 and clean coal technology still commercially unviable. The decommissioned stock will mainly be replaced by a combination of gas powered and renewables generation.

A recent Ofgem report showed that replacing this stock will be expensive, filling the energy gap with a new generation of gas powered stations is likely to increase customer bills by as much as 60%, while the alternative of large scale wind expansion would keep household bills increases to 22%. Upfront construction costs for wind are significant in comparison to conventional plants like gas: however running costs are lower as wind is free and there are no associated fuel or transport costs.

In addition, upgrades to the UK’s electricity grid will be required. Currently large sections of the UK grid require replacement as this infrastructure is coming to the end of its natural life; up to 60% will have to be upgraded or entirely replaced in the next 5-10 years. Government commitments are needed to ensure that upgrades and extensions are built to carry the renewable energy power produced in windy and offshore areas to customers through the UK.

McCaffery added: “We need to ensure the UK also benefits through a boost in manufacturing, engineering and skills: but this will only happen if additional action is taken by the Government through working actively to create coastal manufacturing hubs. This will encourage wind energy manufacturing companies to locate in the UK and enable British businesses to take full advantage of the supply chain opportunities, for the benefit of jobs and the UK economy as well as Britain’s energy security.”

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