Offshore wind power to provide 25% of electricity and 70,000 jobs by 2020 in UK

The Crown Estate – which is the lucky owner of the seabed around the British Isles – is awarding contracts for a vast programme of wind farm construction which will significantly improve our renewable energy capacity, not to mention creating thousands of jobs.

Construction is planned to start in 2014, and by 2020 these new projects will provide up to 32GW – the same as around 18 new coal-fired power stations, and a full 25 per cent of the UK’s electricity demand. This will make a major contribution to the UK’s EU commitment to produce 15 per cent of our energy from renewable sources by 2020 (we’re only at around 2 per cent at the moment so there’s a long way to go).

And in these difficult financial times, the opportunity to create new jobs is always a big plus point, especially ones in a growing green economy. According to the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), our wind industry currently employs around 5,000 people. This new £100 billion programme should create tens of thousands more jobs in project planning, fabrication, installation, operations and maintenance activities.

Opponents of wind technology often complain that we can’t rely on wind because, by its very nature, it’s a variable resource. Crucially these new offshore farms will be evenly spread around the coastline of our windy island, smoothing out much of the fluctuation. The National Grid’s experts are confident that fluctuating wind power can be managed in the system. The development of smart grids in Britain and, if it happens, the European ‘supergrid’ announced this week should also make the management of fluctuating renewable energy supplies much easier.

So this is great news, both for the climate and for British workers. As Greenpeace UK boss John Sauven points out: “Our country is home to some of the best engineers, mechanics and construction professionals in the world. Their expertise will be crucial if we are to harness the massive potential that new technologies like offshore wind have to offer.

“The Government’s role is clear. Train and equip Britain’s workforce to ensure that the thousands of jobs which will be created are filled by workers in Britain, and provide the economic certainty investors need to complete these projects on time and on budget. The economic and environmental benefits are huge, but unless we make the most of this momentous opportunity, others will.”