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Offshore wind sector deal could 'drive prosperity' in East Anglia's coastal communities

The topside of the offshore wind farm substation leaves the port of Lowestoft. The Offshore Wind Industry Council is working on plans for a sector deal for the industry, as part of the government's industrial strategy. Picture: Andrew Papworth.

The topside of the offshore wind farm substation leaves the port of Lowestoft. The Offshore Wind Industry Council is working on plans for a sector deal for the industry, as part of the government's industrial strategy. Picture: Andrew Papworth.

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Offshore wind could help to regenerate the East of England's deprived coastal communities with jobs and investment if proposals for a government sector deal get the green light.

The Dudgeon offshore wind farm, situated just off Cromer. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Dudgeon offshore wind farm, situated just off Cromer. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

This was the view of industry experts as they outlined how offshore wind’s contribution both to the UK’s energy supply and its economy could grow over the next 30 years.

As part of its industrial strategy the government is developing specific sector plans for industries deemed to be important to future growth.

Benj Sykes, co-chairman of the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC), said being granted their own sector deal was an opportunity that businesses and organisations involved in offshore wind should not squander.

“The OWIC has kicked off some very comprehensive work to put together a proposal for government to deliver our vision and show how we can contribute to the government’s objectives in its industrial strategy, one of which is clean growth,” he said.

“It is a huge opportunity for the UK to build an up-scaled offshore wind industry which can not only delivery clean growth but a globally competitive supply chain, as the UK has done in oil and gas.”

Speaking at the EEEGR SNS2018 conference at the Norfolk Showground outside Norwich, Mr Sykes said the UK currently has around 7.5GW of installed capacity in offshore wind farms, around 15,000 people directly employed in the industry and annual exports of £500m.

The OWIC and other partners hope to grow this substantially by 2030 to 30GW of installed capacity, 30,000 direct jobs and exports worth more than £2.5bn – and are prepared to invest £50bn in the UK’s energy infrastructure to achieve these goals.

He added: “We see the potential to build 50GW by 2050, over 40,000 jobs and £5bn per year in exports.”

Mr Sykes, vice president of energy giant Ørsted, said the East of England could be at the heart of this revolution as an offshore wind cluster, akin to one which is already forming in the Humber estuary, bringing together supply chain activity, business investment and skills development.

He believes offshore wind could have a regenerative impact on coastal communities, where the majority of its operations will be based, bringing jobs and skills and “driving prosperity” in more deprived areas.

Patrick Phelan, EEEGR chairman, added: “We will be working hard with the various bodies and helping to support the effort to ensure this region becomes a major cluster.”

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