East of England Has Much to Offer to Offshore Wind Industry

Major international energy companies remain enthusiastic about wind farm prospects off the East of England coast despite recent setbacks like the shelving of the Galloper project off Suffolk.

That was the message from James Gray, inward investment director for EEEZ (the East of England Energy Zone), back from the Renewable UK 2014 Conference and Exhibition in Manchester.

“We had more than 40 interested callers to the EEEZ stand in the first day or so and they were positive about the potential off our region’s coast.

“Most companies seem to be taking a medium term view on what is happening and see changes of ownership among the operators as part of the process. Most were looking forward to the next round of financing.

“There were visitors from Germany, France, Denmark and China, among others, and they were very upbeat about the key role for the East of England in the wind power sector over the next 15-20 years. There was a general feeling that it was really going to happen and we are going to see the benefits in our backyard.”

He said the East of England , along with Humberside, were the only regions with a strong representation which spoke volumes about the significance of the Southern North Sea to the sector and the strategic location of ports like Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.

Mr Gray was also delighted to see companies with a regional base, like 3sun, Seajacks UK and Tideland, with a prominent presence among the 200 exhibitors at the Manchester event.

And they were all encouraged by the words of Energy Secretary Ed Davey speaking at the event of Government commitment to its green targets and the emphasis that put on supporting renewable and particularly wind power projects.

He said: “Newspapers may write about offshore wind projects being dropped, for example, as if something is going wrong. But we never envisaged or indeed wanted every project to succeed. For there is no bottomless pit of bill payer support for low carbon. Setting a budget – as the UK has done – forces an ever greater focus on cost. It supercharges the competition we want.”

Where projects did go ahead, there was good news too for regional UK business.

“The perceived wisdom is that the profits from UK offshore wind are spent overseas,” said Mr Davey.

“In fact over 40% of lifetime costs of a UK wind farm are dispersed in the UK supply chain. And UK capacity in the offshore wind supply chain is growing – so we can grow that proportion still higher. That is a challenge for both government and industry.”

There was more good news from figures released by the National Grid just before the Renewable UK event, showing a new record for wind power’s contribution to the UK’s clean electricity mix in October. It provided a 24% share of the day’s electricity needs on October 20, beating the previous record of 22% set in August. Its share of the monthly electricity mix was 12.3%, comfortably ahead of October 2013’s share of 8%.

Press release; Image: East of England Energy Zone