GE confirms £100m wind power plant in UK

General Electric (GE) joined arch-rival Siemens and Gamesa in confirming that it will too will continue with plans for a new wind turbines factory in the UK, after the government last week announced that it would invest £60km in upgrading British ports to support the fast-expanding offshore wind energy industry.

GE announced that it will move forward with its plan to invest £100m to develop offshore wind turbines manufacturing and locate design, application and service engineering resources in the UK.

The move comes on the same morning that Siemens and Gamesa also confirmed that it will continue with its plans to invest £80m in a new offshore wind turbines factory.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron later this morning, Jeff Immelt, chairman and chief executive of GE, praised the government for continuing with the port upgrade programme.

"We are very pleased that the UK government has recognised the need to invest in ensuring that its port infrastructure can support the manufacturing of next generation wind turbines," he said.

"The UK has ample offshore wind resources that can provide clean energy for the UK as well as providing new, high-skill jobs for both GE and our suppliers in the UK. GE is ready to invest in the UK and hire the engineers, technologists and other skilled workers needed to make this a reality."

Cameron welcomed the decision and hailed the decision to save the £60m port upgrade programme as evidence of the government’s commitment to the renewable energy sector.

"I want us to be a world leader in offshore wind farm," he said. "We are making these investments so that major manufacturers will decide that this is the place they want to come and build their offshore wind turbines."

The news came as the Prime Minister unveiled the UK’s first ever infrastructure plan at the CBI annual conference in London, detailing how low carbon technology will sit at the heart of the government’s plans to overhaul the UK’s infrastructure over the next five years.

The plan sets out a series of proposals designed to unlock up to £200bn of public and private sector investment in new infrastructure over the next five years.

In particular, it makes the case for an urgent increase in investment in energy, water, waste, and transport infrastructure if the UK is to meet its " stretching carbon targets" and improve its resilience to climate change.

Writing in the foreword to the report, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury Lord Sasoon warned that the UK had to improve on its poor record for infrastructure development.

"For several decades the UK’s approach to infrastructure investment has in general been timid, uncoordinated, incremental, wasteful in its procurement and insufficiently targeted to supporting balanced and sustainable growth in the economy, both economically and environmentally," he said, adding that the UK must overhaul its entire approach to infrastructure planning.

"In 2010 we face an unprecedented series of challenges," he warned. " Stretching carbon reduction targets and the need to ensure long term energy security require a revolution in our energy generation mix. We need digital communications networks that transmit information at high speed to all parts of the UK. We need to maintain our transport, water and waste systems in the face of growing demand and the impact of climate change and of other threats and hazards."

The Treasury said that the spending review had made £40bn of funding available for infrastructure projects, including at least £1bn for a Green Investment Bank, up to £1bn for one of the world’s first commercial scale carbon capture and storage demonstration projects, and the provision of grants to increase the uptake of electric vehicles, as well as new funding to support the development of a high speed rail network.

However, the CBI today warned that the government will need to deliver major improvements to infrastructure and planning regulations if the UK is to continue to attract overseas investors.

A survey of over 120 senior executives at blue chip firms carried out by the employer’s body with consultancy firm Deloitte found that infrastructure and planning was widely regarded as an area where the UK performs "relatively poorly " and has seen its international standing slip.