GEOFF Morris waxes almost lyrical about the wind farms scattered around the East Anglian coast and invites us to admire them. Let’s consider what’s in it for British industry and jobs.
GEOFF Morris waxes almost lyrical about the wind farms scattered around the East Anglian coast and invites us to admire them. Let's consider what's in it for British industry and jobs.
I recently looked into the 88-turbine Sheringham Shoal wind farm now under construction off the Norfolk coast. Here's the situation: it is owned jointly by Statoil and Statkraft, both Norwegian, the turbines, towers and blades were made in Denmark, the foundations in Holland and Belgium, with 126km of cable manufactured in Norway, the fibre-optic element also in Norway, and steel for foundation and transition pieces supplied from Germany.
And the benefit to Britain's employment prospects? The substations are being built in Hartlepool.
The wider picture is no better. When the Gunfleet Sands wind farm opened off the Essex coast a couple of months ago, energy minister Charles Hendry spoke of some £200billion of new investment in the UK to harness wind power, warning that we would be too dependent on imported energy otherwise.
The Gunfleet job went to a Danish government-owned company, installing foreign-made machinery. I believe the same Danish firm owns half of the 341-turbine London Array wind farm, which is expected to be the larges- ever. Meanwhile Swedish energy giant Vattenfall is getting ready to open the 100-turbine Thanet wind farm.
Why? UK coastal waters provide a massive 40 per cent of the EU's wind resources. Our first offshore wind farm was installed 10 years ago, so Britain has had plenty of time to learn or acquire the skills and know-how. Why are we handing these huge projects to foreign interests?
Squandering this precious opportunity to develop our own 'green'' energy industry is a shocking dereliction of duty. The Government is responsible for ensuring that British companies, British skills, British materials and British livelihoods come first. Shouldn't all projects in British waters not yet started be called in and reviewed to make certain that our own firms and workers benefit?
As for nuclear, the Conservative-led coalition axed a loan that would have enabled Sheffield Forgemasters to participate in building our next tranche of urgently-needed power stations - despite Sheffield being Nick Clegg's constituency.
So foreign companies can expect to mop up Britain's nuclear sector too.
If Westminster doesn't put the manufacturing heart back into Britain - and quickly - we're sunk. Allowing our home-grown energy opportunities to be plundered like this is not a good start to the brave 'new era'.
This month meetings are planned in Huntingdonshire to look at inland wind farm proposals by RES UK and TCI Renewables. At least these appear to be British-based companies. Do they ever apply for those offshore licences?