The UK is determined to get out of the “dunce corner” on renewables, energy secretary Chris Huhne has said as he officially opened the world’s largest offshore wind farm off the UK coast.
The 100-turbine Thanet wind farm off the coast of Kent will produce enough electricity to supply the equivalent of more than 200,000 homes a year, and brings the UK’s total power from onshore and offshore wind to more than 5GW - enough to power all the homes in Scotland.
At a ceremony at sea to mark the launch of the new site, Mr Huhne said offshore wind was a key part of meeting the country’s commitments to boost renewables, and the Government was focused on moving from the “frankly atrocious record” on green energy it had inherited.
Currently the UK sources just 3% of all its energy from renewables, against a target of 15% by 2020, and is 25th in the league table of 27 EU countries on action on green power.
Offshore wind power was part of ensuring secure, cheap energy supplies in the future, as well as providing jobs, Huhne said.
But concerns were raised about the proportion of jobs created by the offshore wind industry going to British workers, and whether incentives such as £60M promised for ports development to support the supply chain would survive the forthcoming Government spending review.
About 30% of the 3,500 jobs generated by the manufacture, construction and installation of the wind farm owned by Swedish company Vattenfall went to UK employees.
Mr Huhne said the ports funding was subject to the comprehensive spending review but said it would be foolish not to encourage in every way possible investment in the supply chain, to ensure as much as possible of the manufacture and skills for offshore wind were based in the UK.
“The opening of the Thanet windfarm is a very positive step forward in the UK’s progress towards securing a low carbon energy supply and meeting renewable targets, but we must continue to drive forward progress,” said ICE director general Tom Foulkes.
“UK’s offshore energy resources, if harnessed, could provide a major proportion of the UK’s electricity needs and put the UK at the forefront of a rapidly growing sector with enormous export potential.
“However, this will require massive development in a relatively narrow timeframe. Government will need to provide clear leadership, ensuring the regulatory framework and fiscal mechanisms are fit for purpose and the supply chain is developed concurrently to make the UK a hub for offshore design and manufacturing.”