UK – ?The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind??

According to new research by one of the UK’s leading economic forecasting consultancies, Oxford Economics, coastal communities in Britain who were once ‘left-out’ of the economic opportunities of recent decades now stand to benefit from permanent long-term skilled jobs that offshore wind energy could generate and sustain.

Released this week, the report is the most sophisticated and detailed analysis yet on long-term job benefits from offshore wind power and was conducted with the support of leading wind turbines supplier, Vestas.

It shows that were the UK Government to embrace the opportunity highlighted by the recent Offshore Valuation Group study – that by 2050 the UK could generate the equivalent in renewable electricity to the 1bn barrels of oil and gas being produced annually offshore – this could create as many as 58,000 permanent skilled jobs from offshore Operation & Maintenance activities alone – in addition to the thousands of construction jobs and potential manufacturing jobs.

And all of these jobs would be in communities that have long suffered from the decline of the ship building, fisheries and domestic tourism industries

However, obstacles including inadequate grid and port infrastructure, uncertainty over the support mechanism, capital flow into the sector, and local skill shortages mean that thousands of these potential jobs could be at risk.

Commenting on the report, Vestas Offshore President Anders Søe-Jensen called upon the Energy Secretary Chris Huhne MP and the coalition government to embrace the opportunity for the UK:

“As recently pointed out by the Energy Secretary, harnessing the potential of the UK’s offshore renewable energy resource-even at only 29% of the full potential, can make the UK a net exporter of renewable electricity. This research underlines the benefits to coastal communities that will come from hosting offshore wind-farms.”

“But if the UK does not encourage the right conditions for offshore wind farm for instance by reducing delivery risks as a matter of urgency, this research shows that a significant number of potential jobs will be lost to the UK economy. The Government has an unparalleled opportunity – coastal regions will benefit if it can seize it.”

Vestas believes the government can achieve the full potential of existing offshore plans under development if it is able to embrace an approach that addresses the 8 points below:

1. Long-term government commitment
2. Port development
3. Ensuring continued finance
4. Improving grid infrastructure
5. Tackling Planning delays
6. Creating skills
7. Supporting innovation and R&D
8. Effective EU engagement

Vattenfall officially opened the world’s largest offshore wind farm, Thanet Offshore Wind Farm, off England’s south east coast. The wind farm has 100 wind turbines and will generate electricity equivalent to the annual consumption of over 200,000 British households.