Those who doubt the value of windpower in generating power for the UK are being urged to think again by James Gray, inward investment director for EEEZ, the East of England Energy Zone.
He wants to see the nation’s politicians, business leaders and energy industry fully behind the many initiatives for future windpower development – particularly as the UK looks for energy security. And he is looking for more tangible Government support.
“The current uncertainties in the Middle East and Eastern Europe must call into question any reliance on imports,” he said. “The answer is a balanced mix of renewables, nuclear and oil & gas.”
The East of England has a pivotal role to play in securing the nation’s energy supply. Our offshore gas companies are innovative and experienced, extracting the maximum output from Southern North Sea fields, while Sizewell C will play a major role in the delivery of new nuclear.”
Mr Gray believes that the region is crucial to the development of offshore wind industry as a key source of energy for the country.
“A few years ago we were barely on the map; now our ports are seen as in a prime location to support the development of the next round of massive wind farm development.
“Around 10% of our UK electricity will be produced from wind this year. It is here and it is actually happening while the general consensus is that oil & gas supplies will deplete and nuclear new build take time to progress.
“Latest DECC figures show a 30% increase in the UK’s renewable electricity generation last year compared to 2012. We must build on that; it is our future. We’re already ahead of the game and must lead the way to 2020.”
He hoped the Government would take a long-term view as it had with nuclear and secure the UK’s place as a leader in the industry, creating a new sector, focused on challenged coastal areas, and helping to secure the nation’s energy security.
The offshore wind sector requires some up-front subsidy, as had already happened in Germany, France, Denmark and now the US, Japan and other nations.
“Our Government must bring forward a subsidy level which will encourage the private sector investment required to kick-start the next round of development,” said Mr Gray.
“These new developments will significantly scale-up the level of activity particularly in the Southern North Sea, especially off the coasts of Norfolk and Suffolk.”
The UK is viewed by many analysts as on the cusp of leadership in an industry with the potential to revitalise hundreds of UK engineering businesses, creating new jobs particularly in coastal towns.
Mr Gray also urged the industry and local supply chain to help develop a close relationship with the many international companies thinking of investing in the UK offshore wind business.
“We must remind them of the warm welcome, vast experience and excellent ports and facilities they will find here and the unique support they will get from everyone involved in this region through the EEEZ,” he said.
“We can offer Assisted Area Status, well-located Enterprise Zones, a workforce with 50 years’ offshore experience and, through the EEEZ, a fast-track for energy companies looking to invest here.”