UK Offshore Wind Power: Building an Industry

The Coalition Government needs to act quickly and decisively to reaffirm Britain’s commitment to the development of offshore wind energy through confirming upgrades to port facilities, maintaining market stability and agreeing targets for energy production from wind power.

If this is done then an industry employing at least 45,000 people with a substantial manufacturing base can be created, according to a report published today by Douglas-Westwood commissioned by RenewableUK.

The report, UK Offshore wind: Building an Industry, outlines scenarios for UK offshore wind development from 2015 to 2030. The lead "Healthy industry scenario", would be capable of attracting a substantial and sustainable manufacturing base creating at least 45,000 UK-based jobs.

Crucially, decisions on new factories will need to be made in the next 12-24 months if this is to be realized. In contrast, the "Low Added Value" scenario – which is in line with energy outputs from the Government’s Renewable Energy Strategy – would only see limited UK manufacturing facilities, and while it would provide the UK with a significant green energy production, it would be a missed opportunity for the UK in terms of jobs and industrialization.

In the first quarter of 2010 wind turbined manufacturers Siemens and GE committed to a UK manufacturing presence following the Government announcement to fund port facility upgrades with the offshore wind infrastructure competition. The current optimistic outlook for the industry is driven by a combination of the potential size of the domestic market as well as confidence to-date in UK Government policy towards the sector.

Commenting on the report, Maria McCaffery MBE, BWEA Chief Executive said: "Offshore wind farm presents the UK with a major opportunity not only reconfigure its energy production towards clean and renewable sources, but a once-in-generation opportunity to build a home-grown manufacturing and R&D base for a new industry, and become the world leader in the field."

"Without firmer Government strategy we will get an offshore wind industry which produces clean energy for the UK, but one for the which the production facilities, and the manufacturing jobs are located elsewhere. If ambitious targets are agreed, and the Government acts now on a package of measures to drive forward the industry then wind can be the sector which drives forward the Coalition’s pledge to rebalance the economy and create jobs."

RenewableUK is the trade and professional body for the UK wind and marine renewables industries. Formed in 1978, and with 600 corporate members, RenewableUK is the leading renewable energy trade association in the UK. Their primary purpose is to promote the use of renewable power in and around the UK, both onshore and offshore. We act as a central point of information for our membership and as a lobbying group to promote renewable energy to government.

The UK’s offshore wind power potential has been developed through a series of competitive leasing rounds by The Crown Estate, landlord and steward of the UK’s seabed. Rounds 1 and 2 provided a combined total of 8 GW of potential capacity, whilst Round 3 awarded licences for up to 32 GW of electricity in January 2010.

According to data for 2008, contained in the Digest of UK’s Energy Statistics (published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change), each 1GW of installed offshore wind turbine capacity is sufficient to satisfy the annual electricity consumption of 684,000 UK households.

In the first quarter of 2010 wind turbines manufacturers Siemens, Clipper, Mitsubishi and GE all committed to a UK presence. Fundamental to these decisions was the UK’s excellent market outlook. Considerable follow-on supply chain development is expected in the UK considering the size of the domestic market and the confidence now demonstrated by the turbine manufacturers.

A requirement for these companies and their investors is a long-term market outlook and confidence in government policy. The massive development cycle the UK has set off on must be seen as the beginnings of a long-term and stable industry.

This report presents scenarios of UK offshore wind installation for the 2015 to 2030 period. Detailed assumptions have been developed to show both the hardware and the installation services that will be required to meet these delivery scenarios.

Extensive consultation with wind farm project developers, stakeholders and supply chain companies has been conducted to develop and review project dates and assumptions for hardware requirements, and to make policy recommendations.