£66m wind industry injection for North East economy

The North East economy could be boosted by £7bn after Deputy PM Nick Clegg announced details of an offshore wind industry cash injection

Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire An offshore wind farm
An offshore wind farm

The North East is set to benefit from a £66m injection of cash into the offshore wind industry which could boost the economy by £7bn.

The North Eastern and Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnerships, which bring together industry and local authority leaders, will play a leading role in bringing investment to the region.

The major new strategy published by Deputy PM Nick Clegg states the UK will require “billions of pounds of investment in new low carbon electricity generation” to help the nation meet a target of cutting carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 .

The North East is highlighted as a region set to benefit, alongside Great Yarmouth, the Humber and Merseyside. The announcement came as industry body RenewableUK revealed that the UK’s total onshore and offshore wind capacity had passed 10 gigawatts, providing enough power for the equivalent of 5.5 million homes.

Measures include £46m in funding over five years for a body called the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (Orec), which provides expertise and support to firms developing offshore wind, tidal and wave power technology.

The organisation has offices at the New and Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) in Blyth, Northumberland, which has some of the UK’s best testing and research facilities for renewable energy. Orec was created by a consortium of agencies and businesses involved in developing low carbon energy technology, and also has a base in Scotland.

It caps a good few weeks for Narec after The Journal reported at the start of July how it had created a £2.8m project called RETA to support SMEs to get a foothold in the offshore sector.

Mr Clegg also announced that £20m would be allocated to a project called GROW: Offshore Wind, which aims to help manufacturers in the UK supply chain to win more contracts from the offshore wind industry sector.

The Government is also considering ordering developers of major wind farm projects to set out plans explaining how they will help firms in the local supply chain develop new technology and train staff, although this proposal will go out for consultation.

There will be a new Offshore Wind Investment Organisation to attract inward investment to the UK.

Whitehall chiefs will also provide more grants for port and coastal infrastructure development in assisted areas of England which currently includes parts of Tees Valley – although a review to determine which areas have assisted area status from 2014 is currently underway.

And the Green Investment Bank, a Government bank with £3.8bn to invest in green industries, will allocate “a significant proportion” of its capital to offshore wind.

The strategy document states: “The sector could deliver in the order of £7bn . . . to the UK economy (excluding exports) and support over 30,000 full time equivalent UK jobs.”

It highlights a number of Tees Valley firms as businesses which are already carrying out pioneering work, including TAG Energy Solutions in Billingham, and Heerema and JDR Cables, both in Hartlepool, and MPI Offshore and MC Ware, in Stokesley.

Stephen Catchpole, MD of Local Enterprise Partnership Tees Valley Unlimited, welcomed the strategy and said the area was well-placed to capitalise on its opportunities.

He said: “The offshore wind sector simultaneously plays to our traditional strengths of engineering and offshore work and we have a range of companies that are not only ready and willing, but also highly capable of getting involved in the new opportunities that are materialising from the renewables industry.”

Mr Clegg said: “This strategy will help keep Britain as the world leader in one of the most important industries of the 21st Century.

“If we make the most of offshore wind’s potential in the UK, it can provide a big proportion of the energy that lights our homes and powers our economy.”

The announcements also received cautious backing from environmental campaigners Greenpeace.

Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist Doug Parr, said: “It’s good to see the Government thinking big on offshore wind – a technology that is key to cutting dangerous carbon emissions from our energy sector and helping our economy out of the doldrums.”

But he warned the Government’s decision not to set a target to slash emissions from the power sector by 2030, which would send a strong signal to investors.

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