The UK will struggle to meet legally binding commitments to produce 15% of power from renewable sources unless resources are ploughed into wind energy, according to new research from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).
The UK’s target for 15% of energy produced from renewable sources is set by agreement with the European Union, and is legally binding. The UK needs to achieve this target by 2020.
In its report published today, the IPPR says without the rapid expansion of offshore wind capacity, the UK will struggle to achieve the 15% target.
It also says that without greater government support, the opportunity to create up to 70,000 long-term jobs in parts of the country where they are needed, and its associated export potential, will be lost.
Senior Research Fellow for IPPR, Matthew Lockwood, said: “Offshore wind has great potential for UK jobs but we risk being blown off course. The government’s pledge to achieve ambitious renewable energy 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.”
The IPPR claim only 700 people are currently employed in the wind energy sector, and only one UK-based factory manufactures parts for wind turbines.
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.
“The ippr’s excellent analysis shows how this can be done through an offshore wind investment programme but this has to be matched by developing workforce skills – shortages of engineering and manufacturing skills must be addressed now as a green answer to the recession.”
The IPPR say the UK’s renewable sector needs a boost, following given greater confidence that the ambitions for developing the UK’s offshore wind capacity will be delivered.
It also recommends that the UK government learns the lesson of industrial activism from countries such as Denmark, Spain and Germany which have all been successful in developing a local onshore wind industry, the report argues for an ‘offshore wind investment programme’ to achieve this.
- Monitor the impact of banding the Renewable Obligation to ensure that the levels of bands have been set correctly and are delivering sufficient renewable capacity.
- Major updates are required by the National Grid to the grid infrastructure to increase capacity and accommodate large amounts of new offshore wind.
- Improvements in the planning system, e.g. the process for establishing an Infrastructure Planning Commission, is underway which is hoped will help speed up the consent process for offshore wind farms. This needs to be kept under review.
- Improvements in the supply chain – the government should consider targeting support measures at companies that could help overcome bottlenecks in the supply chain. This includes foundation, offshore substation, cable, installation vessel and turbine manufacturers.
- A level playing field between tax breaks for offshore wind workers and those other competing sectors, such as oil and gas.