Report calls for clear supply chain for offshore wind

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Experts have called for the UK to establish a clear supply chain for the offshore wind industry, which is expected to see a 10-fold increase in capacity by 2020.

A report by the Royal Academy of Engineering and OrbisEnergy outlines ways in which the government can support the industry in four key areas: infrastructure, skills, investment and health and safety.

’The government supported the oil and gas supply chain in its early days with generous tax incentives, training programmes, strategic infrastructure and supportive regulation,’ said Academy President Lord Browne of Madingley — adding that the same should now be done for offshore wind.

According to the report, the UK faces a huge challenge in developing offshore wind over the coming decade. The 13GW scenario set out in the government’s National Renewable Energy Action Plan requires a 10-fold increase in capacity between now and 2020.

The report said that it is vital that the UK gains the greatest possible value from this expansion through jobs and wealth creation. Crucial to this, said the report, is establishing a supply chain.

The report called for the government to develop a UK-wide strategy focusing on a select number of ports spread around the coast; an increase in the total pool of skilled workers available to the energy industries; and assurances that the health-and-safety regime for offshore wind is rational, clear and tailored to the specific risks.

It added that the timetable for electricity market reform should be honoured and clarity provided on how the transition to feed-in tariffs will work — meanwhile investment should be kick-started with targeted financial support during the construction phase, through loan guarantees or similar products delivered by the Green Investment Bank.

The prospect of sustainable growth in the long term would provide extra confidence for supply-chain companies looking to invest, it added.

During a meeting to launch the report in parliament, Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney, said: ’We know that offshore wind is a key growth sector for the economy and we are committed to ensuring companies in the UK benefit from this huge opportunity.

’Not only can offshore wind generate significant amounts of electricity, it can support a new generation of engineering skills creating long-term jobs which will be key to sustainable growth.’