The United Kingdom’s embattled Prime Minister, Theresa May, promised on Friday that “Brexit will not be a race to the bottom” for the country as she spoke at Danish energy giant Orsted’s offshore wind factory in Grimsby, heralding the importance of offshore wind to the future of the country a day after her government had launched its long-awaited Offshore Wind Sector Deal. Joshua Hill takes a look.
As reported last week, the UK finally launched its long-awaited Offshore Wind Sector Deal which will see the country’s offshore industry invest at least £250 million so as to ensure offshore wind generates more than 30% of the country’s electricity by 2030. The plan also calls to triple “green collar” jobs by 2030 and ensure that at least a third of all these jobs are held by women.
“This new Sector Deal will drive a surge in the clean, green offshore wind revolution that is powering homes and businesses across the UK, bringing investment into coastal communities and ensuring we maintain our position as global leaders in this growing sector,” said Claire Perry, Energy & Clean Growth Minister. “By 2030 a third of our electricity will come from offshore wind, generating thousands of high-quality jobs across the UK, a strong UK supply chain, and a fivefold increase in exports. This is our modern Industrial Strategy in action.”
A day later, UK Prime Minister Theresa May toured Orsted’s Grimsby offshore wind factory and gave a speech regarding the country’s much-ballyhooed Brexit — its disastrously messy attempt to leave the European Union.
“Your work in offshore wind does not just provide skilled jobs here in Grimsby, it makes a direct contribution to the UK’s efforts to reduce our carbon emissions and protect our environment,” said May. “Achieving the economic benefits of the global shift to sustainable green growth is one of the four Grand Challenges in our Modern Industrial Strategy,” — of which the country’s several Sector Deals — “Partnerships between the government and industry on sector-specific issues can create significant opportunities to boost productivity, employment, innovation, and skills” — are a key part.
“The UK is the world-leader in oﬀshore wind, and yesterday we launched our Offshore Wind Sector Deal to build on that success,” May added.
The focus of May’s speech, however, was on the impact of Brexit on the country. “We have … committed to protecting the rights and standards currently set at the EU level – from workers’ rights to environmental protections,” May said, adding that “Brexit will not be a race to the bottom.”
“In fact in most of these areas the UK has led the way, ahead of the EU. And this week we have said that if the EU expands workers’ rights, we will debate those measures in Parliament and decide if we want to follow suit.”
The focus for many in the UK at the moment, albeit briefly, remains on the mammoth Offshore Wind Sector Deal announced last week, which will see the UK offshore wind industry invest £250 million, including new an Offshore Wind Growth Partnership to develop the UK supply chain — as global exports are set to increase five-fold to £2.6 billion by 2030 — which will help to triple the number of industry jobs to 27,000 by 2030.
“Now that we’ve sealed this transformative deal with our partners in government, as a key part of the UK’s Industrial Strategy, offshore wind is set to take its place at the heart of our low-carbon, affordable and reliable electricity system of the future,” said Benj Sykes, Ørsted UK Country Manager for Offshore and Co-Chair of the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC), which was involved in negotiations with the Government.
“This relentlessly innovative sector is revitalising parts of the country which have never seen opportunities like this for years, especially coastal communities from Wick in the northern Scotland to the Isle of Wight, and from Barrow-in-Furness to the Humber. Companies are burgeoning in clusters, creating new centres of excellence in this clean growth boom. The Sector Deal will ensure that even more of these companies win work not only on here, but around the world in a global offshore wind market set to be worth £30 billion a year by 2030.”
The news was unsurprisingly welcomed by the country’s renewable energy groups.
“The Sector Deal is about creating opportunities for the people who will be part of our 27,000-strong offshore wind workforce,” added Chief Executive of RenewableUK, Hugh McNeal. “We’re setting up a new body to develop the right skills for years to come, not only by offering apprenticeships, but also by helping experienced people from other parts of the energy sector, as well as the military, to make the change into offshore wind. We also want to ensure far more diversity in the industry, by reaching a target of at least 33% women employees by 2030, and by recruiting people from a wider variety of ethnic backgrounds.”
The Sector Deal was also unsurprisingly hugely appreciated by companies of all sizes across the United Kingdom.
“The Sector Deal marks the coming of age of offshore wind as both a significant part of the UK’s energy transformation and an industrial powerhouse driving economic growth,” said Matthew Wright, UK Managing Director at Ørsted. “We should see the offshore wind industry as a huge UK success story. Costs have been driven down dramatically so that offshore wind is now competitive with conventional forms of energy generation, and at the same time the sector has delivered jobs, investment and growth across northern towns and cities. Ørsted alone will have invested over £13 billion in the UK by the end of 2021. This transformative Sector Deal will unlock significant additional investment from the whole industry and put offshore wind at the front and centre of the UK’s Industrial Strategy.”
“Today’s launch of the Sector Deal sets the long term context for MHI Vestas’ continued growth and job creation in the UK by putting the UK on a path to deliver at least 30GW by 2030,” said Julian Brown, Vice President and UK Country Manager of MHI Vestas Offshore Wind. “Our recent investment on the Isle of Wight is already delivering on the Sector Deal ambitions, creating nearly 400 new highly skilled jobs in 2019, exporting over three quarters of our 2019 output and investing £1 million in a four-year skills programme. I’m excited that MHI Vestas will play an important part in the UK’s offshore wind revolution in the next decade.”
“Siemens Gamesa (SGRE) welcomes the Sector Deal as recognition that Offshore Wind can be a key driver in a buoyant low carbon economy for generations to come,” said Clark MacFarlane, Managing Director of Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy UK. “It confirms the confidence we had to invest in our Hull facility, now employing over 1,100 people. The Sector Deal elements of innovation, developing skills, creating a more diverse work force and supporting local people is in the DNA of our company.”
RenewableUK, the country’s trade body for wind (both onshore and offshore) and marine technologies, collated a number of comments from its association members, found here