Port upgrades vital to growth of UK economy, says wind energy body

RenewableUK, the country’s leading renewable energy trade association launched a national campaign today to highlight the importance of investing in improvements to the UK’s port facilities.

The previous Government pledged 60m towards upgrading the infrastructure around ports to enable wind turbines manufacturing in this country, crucial for delivering Round 3 offshore wind farm projects.

However, the fund could now be scrapped as part of the Coalition’s Spending Review in October and RenewableUK is warning this could mean the UK loses out on 50,000 new jobs as manufacturers look to base their offshore wind power operations outside the UK.

The campaign has received cross-party support from Charles Kennedy former Liberal Democrat leader, Alan Whitehead (Labour MP) and Peter Aldous (Conservative MP), who are co-sponsoring an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons today on the subject.

Greenpeace has also joined the campaign, raising awareness of the issue to its membership and encouraging activists to lobby their local MPs in affected areas.

RenewableUK has stressed that decisions on new port infrastructure must be taken in the next six-twelve months if the UK is to take advantage of the manufacturing and supply chain opportunities offered by the Round 3 projects.

Dr Gordon Edge, Director of Policy at RenewableUK said:

"This Government has pledged to be the greenest ever, committing itself to re-balancing the economy to create low carbon jobs and tackling the dual challenge of climate change and energy security. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to become a world-leader in offshore wind power but if we fail to capitalise on the lead we have in this sector, those jobs will be lost to rival countries already competing with us to attract offshore wind manufacturers.

"We are urging the Government to make the important distinction between current spending and investment, as the infrastructure spending will ultimately deliver mass employment and business benefits at a local and regional level. We are looking at 50,000 jobs in wind turbine and component manufacturing over the next decade."

Rt Hon Charles Kennedy MP, said: "I have always believed very strongly in the potential of renewables to rejuvenate the UK’s economy – particularly in old industrial areas, in which many of the ports eligible for this funding lie. The possibility of building our own home-grown industry should not be passed up."

Louise Hutchins, Climate Change Campaigner, at Greenpeace said: "Offshore wind energy is a huge resource that the UK must embrace. It will provide thousands of jobs and help us to reduce climate change emissions. But we’ll miss this opportunity without the right Government support. Making sure that our ports and harbours are capable of handling this new cutting edge industry is vital to unlocking the investment needed. Greenpeace joins with RenewableUK in calling on the Government to retain the funding for the Offshore Wind Infrastructure Competition. If this Government wants to be seen as the greenest ever, then they’ve got to provide the appropriate investment for offshore wind. Anything else would be a failure"

After the last Government’s announcement of the Offshore Wind Infrastructure Fund, Siemens and GE followed with their own announcements committing to a UK manufacturing presence, demonstrating the very clear link between Government support and industry action.

The UK currently has more offshore wind turbines installed, in construction and planned than any other country in the world. With the right investment, this sector is expected to grow significantly over the coming years. The industry estimates that by 2030 we could have nearly 50 GW of installed offshore wind farm capacity or the equivalent of more than half of the UK’s current annual electricity consumption.

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 8GW of potential capacity, whilst Round 3 awarded licences for up to 32 GW of electricity in January 2010.