The UK risks missing out on tens of thousands of jobs in the offshore wind industry unless the Westminster Government gives greater support to the sector.
A report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), says the UK must rapidly expand its offshore wind capacity – or it will fail to meet the legally binding target of sourcing 15% of energy from renewables by 2020.
With wind expected to meet the lion’s share of that target, there is an opportunity to create up to 70,000 long-term jobs in the industry in parts of the country where they are most needed, the report says.
But unless the government acts to remove barriers to investment, provide additional, focused support to the industry and build up the skills base, the UK will miss out on green jobs.
While the UK already has the biggest offshore wind capacity in the world, just 700 people are employed in the sector, and most of the parts for the windfarms are manufactured overseas.
The IPPR says the government needs to be more pro-active in establishing certainty in the domestic offshore wind market to encourage investment.
Measures that should be considered include updating the grid infrastructure – with the government underwriting investment if needed – and targeting support to companies that manufacture parts such as cabling, turbines, installation vessels and foundations to unblock bottlenecks in the supply chain.
Financial support schemes such as the renewables obligation and feed-in tariffs must be monitored to make sure they help deliver expansion of the sector.
The government must also embark on an offshore wind investment programme, to include focused packages of grants and research and development incentives, a near-shore testing facility for technology and underwriting of borrowing to ensure short-term guarantees for lending.
In addition, a strategic approach to improving skills in the sector is needed, by encouraging more youngsters to study subjects such as science, engineering and maths, helping forge links between universities and industry, and providing incentives for people going into low-carbon jobs.
Matthew Lockwood, of the IPPR, said: “Offshore wind has great potential for UK jobs but we risk being blown off course.
“The government’s pledge to achieve ambitious renewable targets by 2020 shows it is serious about its potential, but we need to follow through with concrete policies to create greater certainty for industry, maximise the potential for the UK economy, and realise our environmental goals.”
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “The offshore wind industry could create tens of thousands of good, green jobs in the UK but the recession has shaken the industry’s confidence and exposed the need for government support for green infrastructure investment.”
He said an offshore wind investment programme had to be matched by developing appropriate skills in the workforce.
Greenpeace director John Sauven said: “Gordon Brown personally pledged that the UK would meet its legally binding EU renewable energy target for 2020 but we’re already going to miss the targets for 2010. If these targets are going to mean anything then offshore wind urgently needs the Budget. Then Mr Brown must remove the barriers preventing renewable energy development such as planning delays, and a lack of skills, grid connections and UK supply chain.