A flurry of major investment decisions has signaled that the great green transition has begun and finally Britain is beginning to make the switch to low-carbon.
The last few months has seen a flurry of major investment decisions signalling that the great green transition has begun and finally Britain is beginning to make the switch to low-carbon.
In January the Crown Estate awarded contracts for a huge concerted expansion of offshore wind power around Britain’s coasts. The development would supply a quarter of Britain’s electricity needs and create 70,000 jobs by 2020. The Carbon Trust estimates this will create a net economic benefit of £65 billion over the next 40 years. A list of the wind farm sites can be found here.
Developing 32GW of wind capacity in the UK – the government’s target – will require major investment, not only in wind turbine manufacturing capacity but across the whole supply chain including foundations, cabling, vessels for installation, and ports for construction and maintenance. To put this into perspective, according to The Economist, the “dash for gas” in the early 1990s produced 26GW of capacity.
Whilst acknowledging that much greater investment will therefore be required in the next parliament, Left Foot Forward applauds some of the recent major clean energy announcements – many of which came about in response to climate change secretary Ed Miliband’s policy changes and the new funds outlined in the Budget.
• Clipper Windpower Plc established a centre of excellence in Blyth to develop the world’s largest offshore wind turbine.
• Siemens announced £75 million investment in a new wind turbine factory, eyeing commercial deployment of a 6MW device by 2014. This builds on the company’s existing training centres in Newcastle upon Tyne and its global centre for offshore grid connections in Manchester. Siemens is also sponsoring significant research work into renewables at Sheffield and Keele universities.
This Siemens facility is expected to create 700 direct jobs and perhaps as many as 1,500 more in the supply chain. To be located in the east or north east of England, it could produce two to three hundred turbines per year depending on the technology, Siemens UK chief executive Andreas Goss told Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
• Mitsubishi also announced its intention to invest up to £100 million in an offshore wind research and development facility, creating up to 200 jobs.
• General Electric (GE) said it would spend £100m and create almost 2,000 jobs by 2020 to make its 4MW turbine at one of the UK’s port areas, producing numbers of turbines “into the hundreds”.
• Nissan announced £200m of investment in its Wearside factory to start producing batteries for electric cars, creating 350 new jobs.
• The world’s first commercial wave and tidal project was announced for Scotland’s Pentland Firth and Orkney islands. Marine Current Turbines is planning to install 66 SeaGen tidal turbines in three phases over a four year period in a site area of 4.3 square kilometres.
As Left Foot Forward reported last month, a recent study from the US-based PEW Environment group, “Who’s winning the clean energy race?” showed that in 2009, China invested $34.6 billion in the clean energy economy, while the United States invested $18.6 billion and the UK $11.2 billion.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.