MPs and industry leaders welcome £160m green energy plans

New offshore wind plans set to create 2,000 jobs and 60,000 more in supply chain, but green groups say plans don’t go far enough.

MPs and industry leaders have welcomed the UK government’s £160m promise to power every home in the UK with offshore wind energy by 2030, saying it will create jobs and drive economic growth for the rest of the decade.

However, environmental groups have claimed the plan for wind power falls far short of the £48bn that analysts say is necessary and shadow business, energy and industrial strategy secretary Ed Miliband described the £160m funding as a drop in the ocean, claiming it paled in comparison to the investment by France and Germany in green jobs.

Prime minister Boris Johnson made the commitment in his speech to the Conservative Party Conference earlier this week, unveiling £160m in funding that will directly create 2,000 jobs in construction and support 60,000 more in the wider supply chain. £160m will be made available to upgrade ports and infrastructure across communities including Teesside and Humber in northern England, Scotland and Wales to hugely increase the UK’s offshore wind capacity.

Ministers say this new investment will see around 2,000 construction jobs rapidly created and will enable the sector to support up to 60,000 jobs directly and indirectly by 2030 in ports, factories and the supply chains, manufacturing the next-generation of offshore wind turbines and delivering clean energy to the UK.

The prime minister has also set out further commitments claiming that, within the decade, the UK will be at the forefront of the green industrial revolution as the country accelerates progress towards net zero emissions by 2050.

These include:

  • Confirming offshore wind will produce more than enough electricity to power every home in the country by 2030, based on current electricity usage, boosting the government’s previous 30GW target to 40GW;
  • Creating a new target for floating offshore wind to deliver 1GW of energy by 2030, which is over 15 times the current volumes worldwide. Building on the strengths of the North Sea, this brand new technology allows wind farms to be built further out to sea in deeper waters, boosting capacity even further where winds are strongest and ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of the next generation of clean energy;
  • Setting a target to support up to double the capacity of renewable energy in the next Contracts for Difference auction, which will open in late 2021 - providing enough clean, low cost energy to power up to 10 million homes.

These commitments are the first stage outlined as part of the prime minister’s ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution, which will be set out fully later this year. This is expected to include ambitious targets and major investment into industries, innovation and infrastructure that will accelerate the UK’s path to net zero by 2050.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said: “Our seas hold immense potential to power our homes and communities with low-cost green energy and we are already leading the way in harnessing its strengths. Now, as we build back better we must build back greener. So we are committing to new ambitious targets and investment into wind power to accelerate our progress towards net zero emissions by 2050.

“This sets us on our path towards a green industrial revolution, which will provide tens of thousands of highly-skilled jobs. Together with planned stringent requirements on supporting UK manufacturers in government-backed renewables projects, these measures will mean the industry can reach its target of 60% of offshore wind farm content coming from the UK.”

The cross-party parliamentary Committee on Climate Change (CCC) welcomed the news. CCC deputy chair, Baroness Brown of Cambridge, said: “This announcement will boost the UK’s source of cheap, low-carbon electricity to power our homes, businesses, vehicles and appliances – whilst delivering green jobs up and down the country. If we’re to reach net zero UK emissions by 2050, we’ll need to see similarly bold commitments to cut emissions from our buildings, industry, transport and land. But today’s pledge, if delivered, is a positive sign that we’re heading in the right direction.”

Civils contractors also welcomed the news. Alasdair Reisner, chief executive of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), said: “CECA has long argued that the UK needs a mixed portfolio of energy generation and our geographical position as an island nation means we are ideally suited to taking advantage of offshore wind energy. The government’s commitment to building back greener will create tens of thousands of jobs in the infrastructure sector, particularly in rural areas, and will offer opportunities to smaller companies in all parts of the UK.

“Offshore wind provides cheap electricity and will support high-quality jobs, as well as enabling the UK to tackle climate change and meet our low carbon commitments. It is an exciting time for the sector, which will act as a launch pad for our wider economic recovery from Covid-19, and deliver the low carbon generation businesses and communities will rely upon for many years to come.”

However, leading environmental figures and shadow business, energy and industrial strategy secretary Ed Miliband all claimed the £160m plans fell a long way short of the investment required.

Miliband said: “The funding announced today, spread over ten years, is a drop in the ocean, and pales in comparison to the investment by France and Germany in green jobs. The government must urgently bring forward a genuinely ambitious green recovery that will create jobs now on the scale needed to meet the challenge of the climate emergency and unemployment crisis.” 

Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley welcomed the prime minister’s conversion to wind power, but warned that much more is needed. Bartley said: “The level of investment proposed by the prime minister is nowhere near matching his rhetoric. The £160m for wind power falls far short of the £48bn that analysts say is necessary. The government needs to set out where this investment will come from. Nor will it provide what we need to power every sector of the economy, most notably transport. The Green Party proposes that 70% of the country’s electricity should be provided by wind by 2030. The government’s proposals fall far short of this.”

THIS FRIDAY! The popular Infrastructure Intelligence Live series continues this Friday, 9 October at 11am, with leading industry figures taking part in a webinar on sustainability and delivering a green recovery. 

Click here for further information and to book your free place on the webinar.

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