EDITOR’S COMMENT: IF THE GOVERNMENT IS GOING TO SPEND BILLIONS ON A “GREEN REVOLUTION” THEY MUST ENSURE THAT THESE JOBS ARE GIVEN TO BRITISH WORKERS, WHO HAVE ARE FACING UNEMPLOYMENT AND UNCERTAINTY DUE TO THE GLOBAL PANDEMIC. IF YOU AGREE THAT WE NEED BRITISH JOBS FOR BRITISH WORKERS, SIGN OUR PETITION!
Britain is forecast to miss out on more than half of the £50 billion investment in building offshore wind farms in its waters this decade, with the majority of orders for turbines and other equipment expected to go to factories and suppliers overseas.
A commitment to quadruple UK offshore wind capacity by 2030 was one of the key policy proposals outlined by Boris Johnson in his ten-point plan last week to cut emissions and create jobs. However, government figures predict that only about £20 billion of the investment will go to Britain.
Energy companies are expected to need to invest about £50 billion building new wind farms to hit the 2030 target. Although Britain has two blade factories, in Hull and on the Isle of Wight, many blades and most other big turbine parts are made abroad. Only 29 per cent of the capital investment in recent projects has been in the UK.
The government is aiming to boost this figure and has committed to invest £160 million in ports and manufacturing infrastructure, but the business department told The Times that the UK share of capital expenditure was expected to reach only 50 per cent by 2030 and that “the majority of the increase in UK content is likely to occur after 2025”.
The admission comes despite claims in the ten-point plan that it would “enable the delivery of 60 per cent UK content in offshore wind projects”. This higher figure relates to the “lifetime” UK content of projects starting in 2030 and relies on British companies doing most of the operations and maintenance work over subsequent decades.
Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow business secretary, said that “a green industrial revolution must be about generating jobs in the UK, not just generating offshore wind here”. He accused the government of “not doing nearly enough to invest in the supply chain to make sure that happens”.
Britain has more offshore wind farms than any other country, after giving early projects subsidy contracts guaranteeing them a high price for the electricity they generate, adding billions of pounds to household energy bills.
Costs have since fallen significantly, though, and recent projects have been awarded contracts at record low prices that are expected to save consumers money.
There is still anger that Britain has not secured a greater share of the manufacturing for an industry that it helped to create.
Sue Ferns, of the Prospect union, said: “Every megawatt of new offshore wind capacity in Danish waters directly supports five jobs in Denmark, compared to just one in the UK.”
In Scotland there has been outrage as Bifab, part-owned by the Scottish government, lost out on making foundations for SSE’s Seagreen wind farm off Fife, where Bifab has manufacturing yards. SSE opted for companies in China, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates, citing lower costs. About 40 per cent of Seagreen’s blades will be made on the Isle of Wight, with other key elements produced abroad.
SSE has selected GE turbines to build the world’s biggest offshore wind farm at Dogger Bank and the government is in talks with the American company to secure manufacturing sites in Britain.
A spokesman for the business department said that Britain was a “world leader in offshore wind” and that its 2030 targets would “help create new jobs and strengthen UK manufacturing”.