UK offshore wind supply chain must develop

25 June 2013

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25 June 2013 | Andrew Allen

The UK must urgently develop the supply chain for its offshore wind farm industry or lose the opportunity to other countries, a report has warned.

A report by RenewableUK and Crown Estates said the UK has a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to benefit from its position as world-leader for offshore wind farms.

“The UK has, by a country mile, the world’s most successful and ambitious offshore wind programme,” said Maf Smith, deputy chief executive, RenewableUK. “We expect to dominate the international league table for ambition in offshore wind for some time to come. However, it is important to consider the next phase of growth, and take stock of what further opportunities could come to the UK.”

UK wind farms currently provide three gigawatts of power while construction of new farms in areas such as Barrow, Belfast, Lowestoft, Merseyside, Grimsby, Teesside and Mostyn will add a further 1.5 gigawatts of capacity. By 2020 the country could be generating up to 20 gigawatts of offshore wind power, the report said.

Other European countries, however, supply the majority of components and services. And Germany and France are already providing financial incentives to develop infrastructure and are helping attract inward investment, the report authors said.

“The UK government needs to take action to allow companies investing in UK facilities to compete on a level playing field with continental facilities,” the report read. It calls on the government to help stimulate investment in manufacturing and installation infrastructure to serve the domestic market, overseas offshore wind farms and parallel sectors.

“If it delays, investment will be made elsewhere to meet demand and then there will be little incentive to repeat that investment here,” it added. The report said the industry would only attract potential investment if there was confidence in its future.

Major decisions about research and development, infrastructure, and manufacturing facilities will need to be made in the next two to three years to ensure the industry reaches its potential by 2020, it warned.

The government is expected to reveal tariff support for individual low carbon generation technologies in July's draft Electricity Market Reform delivery plan. It is also due to publish its Offshore Wind Industrial Strategy later this year.

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