Develop suppliers to cut the cost of wind power

16 June 2011

16 June 2011 | Angeline Albert

The government must take the lead to help UK businesses harness opportunities in the offshore wind supply chain.

In a report, Making green growth real, published by the Royal Academy ofEngineering, the organisation’s president, Lord Browne of Madingley, said a thriving supply chain will be a key method to reduce costs which will be vital to making the development of offshore wind farms affordable.

Browne said there must be support from government for UK businesses that have already secured opportunities within the wind power sector, greater engagement to help them understand the industry, and it must look more closely at opportunities for UK firms who are unaware of the sector, but could fill gaps in the supply chain with their capabilities.

He added the government’s strategy to encourage first-tier suppliers to locate at UK ports is “the right response” because their presence will encourage development in the rest of the supply base. The study said once manufacturers had made such a commitment, the focus is to switch to encouraging companies further down the supply chain.

The report also urged the government to provide financial support to upgrade UK ports – allowing them to become supply chain hubs – and let them compete with state-owned counterparts in Europe. “Investment today is critical,” said Browne.

It also found the requirement for staff to have specific qualifications and accreditation creates additional costs for companies, particularly SMEs, in the lower tiers of the supply chain. This pressure could be eased if the government introduced a framework of qualifications for the whole energy sector. It was also urged to build awareness of the sector among students to develop skills among young people.

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