Offshore grid agreement

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The UK and nine other countries have signed an agreement to develop an integrated offshore grid in the North and Irish Seas yesterday.

Energy and climate change minister Lord Hunt signed The North Seas Countries’ Offshore Grid Initiative along with ministers from Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden and Ireland.

The countries’ ministers hope a grid spanning European waters will make supplies of electricity more secure for the participating countries by making it easier to optimise offshore wind electricity production. It is also hoped it will help the EU as a whole to meet its renewable energy targets for 2020.

Lord Hunt said a large part of cutting carbon emissions worldwide will be continuing the domestic decarbonisation of UK energy supplies by moving to low-carbon sources including wind.

‘We’re already the world leader in offshore wind in the UK and today’s announcements bring new funding and expert direction to grow this vital new industry,’ he added. ‘They also mean we can work with other countries in the EU to increase our renewable energy supplies.’

Lord Hunt also announced the next round of Low Carbon Energy demonstration capital grants for Vestas, Clipper and Mitsubishi, and the appointment of Prof Bernard Bulkin as the expert chair of DECC’s Office for Renewable Energy Deployment (ORED).

Vestas will receive £1.75m from the government and a further £1.75m from the South East England Development Agency, in addition to £6m already awarded.

In response, Vestas announced that with the award of its grant it will be going ahead with its research and development facility on the Isle of Wight.

Vestas currently employs 160 people on the Isle of Wight. By the time the technology centre is opened in 2011 it is expected that this number will grow to more than 200 and then to almost 400 over the following years.

Rob Sauven, managing director of Vestas Technology R&D, said this investment will help Vestas build and test the largest blades in the world.

Pam Alexander, SEEDA chief executive, said the award will help further position the UK in the offshore wind market and help create jobs and boost the Isle of Wight’s economy.

‘Vestas is a key employer offering high-value jobs and we are keen to retain them at the heart of the Isle of Wight’s centre of excellence in advanced composite materials,’ she added. ‘The R&D centre will shortly be leading the development of new offshore wind technologies for the rest of the world.’