Prime minister pledges to make the UK a world leader in offshore wind

The government hopes its plans will create jobs, slash carbon emissions and boost exports

Prime minister pledges to make the UK a world leader in offshore wind

Prime minister Boris Johnson has set out new plans to make the UK the “world leader” in wind energy, as part of its ambition to “build back greener” following the Covid-19 crisis.

During his leader’s speech at the virtual Conservative Party conference, Johnson said the government will make £160 million available to upgrade ports and infrastructure across communities in places such as Teesside and Humber in Northern England, Scotland and Wales to hugely increase offshore wind capacity.

Offshore wind capacity in these areas is already the largest in the world and currently meets 10% of the UK’s electricity demand.

Johnson pledged to ensure offshore wind produces more than enough electricity to power every home in the country by 2030, based on current electricity usage, boosting its previous 30GW target to 40GW.

The new investment will create around 2,000 construction jobs, and will enable the sector to support up to 60,000 jobs directly and indirectly by 2030 in ports, factories and the supply chains, manufacturing the next-generation of offshore wind turbines and delivering clean energy to the UK.

Through this, UK businesses including smaller suppliers will be well-placed to win orders and further investment from energy companies around the world and increase their competitive standing on the global stage, as well as supporting low-carbon supply chains.

Johnson also set out further commitments to ensure that, within the decade, the UK will be “at the forefront of the green industrial revolution”.

These include creating a new target for floating offshore wind to deliver 1GW of energy by 2030, which is more than 15 times the current volumes worldwide, and setting a target to support up to double the capacity of renewable energy in the next Contracts for Difference auction – which will open in late 2021 – providing enough clean, low-cost energy to power up to 10 million homes

These commitments are the first stage outlined as part of the prime minister’s “ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution”, which will be set out fully later this year. This is expected to include ambitious targets and major investment into industries, innovation and infrastructure that will accelerate the UK’s path to net zero by 2050.

In his speech, Johnson said: “Our seas hold immense potential to power our homes and communities with low-cost green energy and we are already leading the way in harnessing its strengths.

“Now, as we build back better we must build back greener. So we are committing to new ambitious targets and investment into wind power to accelerate our progress towards net zero emissions by 2050. This sets us on our path towards a green industrial revolution, which will provide tens of thousands of highly-skilled jobs.

“Together with planned stringent requirements on supporting UK manufacturers in government-backed renewables projects, these measures will mean the industry can reach its target of 60% of offshore wind farm content coming from the UK.”

Business and energy secretary Alok Sharma said: “The offshore wind sector is a major British success story, providing cheap, green electricity while supporting thousands of good-quality jobs. Powering every home in the country through offshore wind is hugely ambitious, but it’s exactly this kind of ambition which will mean we can build back greener and reach net zero emissions by 2050.

“Today’s announcement marks the latest stage of the government’s support for renewable energy. Last September the third round of the Contracts for Difference renewable energy auction delivered record-low prices on enough clean energy to power 7 million homes. Earlier this year the government announced the next round would be open to onshore wind and solar projects for the first time since 2015.

The UK has the largest installed capacity of offshore wind in the world, with around 10GW in operation off its coasts.

The government’s plan for renewable energy forms part of wider efforts to ensure the UK meets its legally binding target to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and build back greener from coronavirus.

Over the past decade, the UK has cut carbon emissions by more than any similar developed country. In 2019, UK emissions were 42% lower than in 1990, while our economy over the same period grew by 72%.

How the industry reacted…

 

Hugh McNeal, chief executive, RenewableUK

“The government has raised the ambition for offshore wind and renewables, and our industry is ready to meet the challenge. A green recovery with renewables at its heart will be good for consumers and jobs, as well as helping to meet our 2050 net zero emissions target. Support for new floating wind projects will ensure the UK stays at the forefront of global innovation in renewables, and provides new opportunities in the low carbon transition.”

Emma Pinchbeck, chief executive, Energy UK

“The UK’s power sector has reduced emissions by nearly 70%, but we know we need to go further and faster on the road to Net Zero. The energy industry will work with government to turn our world-leading low carbon power sector into a green recovery for the whole economy. The package of support for offshore and floating wind announced by the prime minister today takes a UK decarbonisation success story and winds it up to a scale fit for the green recovery, creating jobs and billions of pounds of investment. We need to build back better for the environment, for the economy and for communities. We look forward to the prime minister’s ten-point plan for the low carbon industrial revolution, later this autumn.”

Keith Anderson, chief executive, Scottish Power

“These bold ambitions and clear targets are exactly the right signals at exactly the right time. They will encourage long-term investment and innovation from the renewables industry – and they will boost employment and economic benefits right across the UK. Scottish Power is committed to doubling down on our commitments to delivering 100% clean green energy that matches the UK’s aim to cut emissions for every home.”

Benj Sykes, industry chair, Offshore Wind Industry Council

“Offshore wind is on track to become the backbone of Britain’s electricity system, providing reliable, low-cost clean power to homes and businesses across the country. The industry is investing tens of billions of pounds in new offshore wind projects, supporting local economies and employment in communities across the UK. Our global leadership in offshore wind, coupled with new support for investment in ports, will help unlock the huge opportunity for the UK to build a world-leading, competitive supply chain.”

Alistair Phillips-Davies, chief executive, SSE

“We welcome today’s announcement which will help ensure that more low-cost offshore wind can be deployed before 2030, creating green jobs and putting the UK on the right path to net zero. This complements SSE’s own plans to invest over £7.5 billion in low carbon infrastructure over the next five years, including building the largest offshore wind farm in the world at Dogger Bank with Equinor.”

Guy Madgwick, chief executive, Red Rock Power

“The UK government’s investment in the offshore wind supply chain and commitment to increasing our reliance on wind energy is welcomed by the industry. It sends a clear, encouraging message to developers and suppliers growing businesses in the local market. We look forward to working with both the UK and Scottish governments, the wider industry and supply chain to help realise these goals and see the opportunities this will bring for green economic growth.”

Philip Dunne, chairman, Environmental Audit Committee

“The Prime minister’s ambition for UK wind to power every home by 2030 is a vote of confidence for the sector, and could be instrumental in our path to net zero. My Committee has heard that the offshore wind sector is optimistic about reaching 40GW by 2030, and the UK has the experts and technology to make it happen. The benefits to local economies and our export potential once we have finessed our wind sector could be significant.

“But reaching 40GW is no easy feat and the government must work closely with industry to overcome challenges that are limiting progress. This includes resolving issues around electricity transmission to get new offshore wind farms connected to the grid and investing in new deep-water ports that are needed for the increased size of turbine blades. We also need to be mindful that new infrastructure must not compromise precious ecosystems, which is vital to the UK’s biodiversity.

“This is a significant step in the right direction. I look forward to seeing the detail of the government’s strategy of how we get to 40GW of wind power by 2030, in particular the contribution from floating wind, in the coming weeks and months.”

Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary, Unite 

“We welcome the prime minister’s conversion to offshore wind farms, but what it reveals is the poverty of ambition compared with France and Germany. The spending proposed by Boris Johnson pales into significance with the vast sums that our main European competitors have invested in this sector.

“The commitment for 60% of the turbines to be manufactured in the UK only highlights that much more could have been done to invest in this sector and the jobs boost that would have been created. This was highlighted by the closure of Vestas on the Isle of Wight a decade ago. The Johnson rhetoric will turn out to be a mirage without a strong economy, retention of skilled jobs and investment in apprenticeships – and this means that chancellor Rishi Sunak needs to continue to do much more to protect employment as we go through the coronavirus pandemic.”

Duncan Law, policy manager, Community Energy England

“Boris Johnson pledges to build back greener in his conference speech with some welcome measures supporting 40 GW of offshore wind and re-instating support for onshore wind and solar. But he forgot the spirit of community he praised at the beginning of his speech. His solutions are mostly big-cheque, centralised, corporate and large-scale. Community energy is essential to that engagement. And yet has been disabled by policy changes since 2015. This will need to change.

“The coming Energy White Paper, the government’s promised ’10 point plan’ to ‘Build Back Greener’, the Comprehensive Spending Review and the Nationally Determined Contributions NDS for COP26 must put people and communities (and community energy) at the heart of the societal and systemic changes we need to avoid catastrophic climate change.”


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