Baroness Brown: Chance to make UK wind sector a world leader

The offshore wind industry is big business. (PA).
The offshore wind industry is big business. (PA).
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The offshore wind industry has already opened up exciting opportunities for Yorkshire and the Offshore Wind Sector Deal now being discussed with Government will bring significant further growth.

These opportunities build on a manufacturing tradition stretching back to the Industrial Revolution, and the same spirit of innovation and craftsmanship that harnessed coal and steam is now delivering 21st century solutions for clean, green power.

There are high-profile examples such as Siemens’ magnificent state-of-the-art blade factory in Hull, but I am also interested in the wide variety of companies that are winning work in this dynamic sector, where the UK occupies a leading position with the largest installed offshore wind capacity in the world.

This is helping firms like Specialist Marine Services in Filey, which provides technicians for offshore wind farms, and M C Construction in Middlesbrough, which makes specialist components used to keep turbine blades secure while they’re shipped out for installation, to develop internationally competitive products and services.

And then there are the entrepreneurs working in the supply chain, such as the former Asda store manager who now runs a digital media business which was commissioned to film the construction of the Siemens factory.

Offshore wind is a rapidly expanding sector touching many parts of the UK’s economy, including manufacturing, engineering, research and transport.

But there is so much more we can do to ensure the UK’s world-leading offshore wind industry continues to expand successfully over the next decade, bringing even greater economic benefits. This is precisely why I’m so pleased to have taken on a new role representing the hundreds of companies, large and small, across the country – and particularly those in our manufacturing and coastal communities – which stand to benefit from the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

As the Sector Champion for Offshore Wind, I will be articulating the industry’s vision of what is possible between now and 2030 to Ministers. We need to retain our position as the number one destination for offshore wind investment. We can secure £48bn of investment in UK infrastructure, increasing the number of jobs in the offshore wind industry from 11,000 today to 27,000 by the end of the next decade. By that time, offshore wind can be generating one-third of the UK’s electricity, with 30 gigawatts of capacity installed. It will be the backbone of our modern clean energy system, critical to meeting our CO2 reduction targets and our global commitments to address climate change, helping ensure that we leave a habitable and productive world for our children and grandchildren.

Our vision for 2030 is for clean power – at no additional cost to the consumer – supporting a fivefold increase exports to £2.6bn a year. UK companies are already exporting offshore wind products and services to Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the USA, as well as to the rest of Europe. Hundreds of contracts – from £50,000 to £30m – are already being struck each year. As we look to grow global markets, offshore wind offers real potential for UK plc. The global market is expected to be worth over £30bn a year by 2030. Companies in the Humber, like MPI Offshore in Stokesley, which provides installation vessels for UK and European offshore wind farm projects, are in a great position to benefit.

To deliver this lucrative opportunity, the industry needs to work closely and collaboratively with Government. Minsters already understand the scale of what’s on offer. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced in October that the next round of highly-competitive auctions to provide clean power from new offshore wind farms will take place spring 2019. The results of the last auction in September stunned everyone, delivering a record 50 per cent drop in the cost of new offshore wind projects. The Government’s Clean Growth Strategy, also unveiled towards the end of last year, makes clear that Ministers see the growth of the low-carbon economy as a win-win situation which will enable the UK to develop new businesses, create highly skilled jobs, cut the cost of energy and reduce damaging emissions.

I’m proud to be a British engineer. My roles in business, academia and government have given me an understanding of the undeniable economic and environmental case for our transition to clean power, and a commitment to make it happen.

I’m looking forward to working with Government to deliver what I believe will be a transformative deal. This will allow the offshore wind industry to reach its full potential, benefiting coastal communities as well as UK suppliers, entrepreneurs and innovators throughout the UK.

Baroness Brown of Cambridge, Julia King, is the UK’s Low Carbon Business Ambassador