Press Can Help Bring Offshore Supply Chain to UK

The UK is a world leader in the offshore wind industry.  We have over three gigawatts of capacity already installed with the government expecting to increase capacity to 18GWs by 2030.  We host the world’s largest project (London Array) and just this week we opened the world’s second largest project –  Greater Gabbard – which is also the furthest offshore. Of the top twelve offshore wind farms by installed capacity, eight of them are in UK waters.

Gabbard-Wind-Farm-UKGreater Gabbard took ten years of meticulous planning, engineering wizardry and  courageous construction work.  The result is a 504MW power station providing enough clean power for half a million homes.

Greater Gabbard resulted in £500m worth of contracts going to UK firms as well as over 100 full time permanent jobs being created in Lowestoft.

It’s an asset the UK should be proud of and an industry we should celebrate.  You can find out more about the project in this video.

So it was disappointing this week to see some parts of the UK press once again try to talk both the project, and the sector, down.  The story of Greater Gabbard’s opening  in both the Daily Telegraph and The Times was under a headline about how much of the investment in the project was made to foreign companies.

There is of course a legitimate story to run on how the contracts that went to foreign companies could be placed in the UK.  Thoughtful analysis of why turbines are not currently being built in the UK, and what might be done to address that, would be a constructive addition to the discussion.   Better still a look at the gross value added of these projects to the UK economy rather than narrowly concentrating on primary contracts would be welcome.

Instead, once again, on the day of opening a hugely significant project, there is no balance; simply a damning headline in place of anything remotely positive on offshore wind.

Developers and UK Government are working hard to ensure that there is a complete supply chain for wind projects in the UK.TAG Minister 1 e-mail (2)

In the meantime, this talking down of offshore wind by some elements of the press creates a vicious circle that undermines those efforts.  Taking such a relentlessly negative view, creates doubt that new projects will be supported and sends a chilling message to the very manufacturers that we would so desperately like to invest in the UK.

The impression given is that £500m of investment is not welcome in the UK, and we’d sooner do without the industry, and its jobs in coastal communities.

The background mood is further darkened by the country’s biggest tabloid publishing a deliberately misleading story about the level of subsidies renewable energy enjoys from bill payers.

round3mapThe next phase of offshore projects are bigger, more expensive and more difficult.  When they are built, the UK will break more records on scale and engineering complexity of wind farms.  British jobs will be created and British talent will be harnessed for the long-term good of our economy.

But because they are expensive and difficult, these projects need a supportive long-term climate to comfort decision-makers as they sign up to billions of pounds of investment.  If the UK press plays its part with balanced reporting there is every chance that we can secure the investment that will ensure that the whole offshore supply chain comes to the UK.

If we allow the press to focus exclusively on the negatives in any success story, and talk the sector down, a climate of uncertainty risks the industry, along with its jobs and investment, being blown away from the UK entirely.

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