Jobs boost hope from windfarms

THE UK risks missing out on tens of thousands of jobs in the offshore wind industry unless the government gives greater support to the sector, a report warns today.

THE UK risks missing out on tens of thousands of jobs in the offshore wind industry unless the government gives greater support to the sector, a report warns today.

The study from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said the UK must rapidly expand its offshore wind capacity or it would fail to meet the legally binding target of sourcing 15pc of energy from renewables by 2020.

With wind expected to meet the lion's share of that target, there is an opportunity to create up to 70,000 long-term jobs in the industry in parts of the country where they are most needed, the report says.

But unless the government acts to remove barriers to investment, provide additional focused support to the industry and build up the skills base, the UK will miss out on green jobs.

While the UK already has the biggest offshore wind capacity in the world, just 700 people are currently employed in the sector and most of the parts for the windfarms are manufactured overseas.

The IPPR said the government needed to be more proactive in establishing certainty in the domestic offshore wind market to encourage investment.

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Measures that should be considered, the report says, include updating the grid infrastructure, with the government underwriting investment if needed, and targeting support to companies that manufacture parts such as cabling, turbines, installation vessels and foundations to unblock bottlenecks in the supply chain.

Financial support schemes such as the renewables obligation and feed-in tariffs must be monitored to make sure they help deliver expansion of the sector, the report urged.

The government must also embark on an offshore wind investment programme which would include focused packages of grants and research and development incentives, a near-shore testing facility for technology and underwriting of borrowing to ensure short-term guarantees for lending.

In addition, a strategic approach to improving skills in the sector is needed, by encouraging more youngsters to study subjects such as science, engineering and maths, helping forge links between universities and industry and providing incentives for people going into low-carbon jobs.

Matthew Lockwood, senior research fellow for IPPR, said: 'Offshore wind has great potential for UK jobs but we risk being blown off course.

'The government's pledge to achieve ambitious renewable 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 report comes just weeks after plans for the 80-turbine Sheringham Shoal windfarm took a step forward - with the Norwegian state power company joining the consortium hoping to build it and an order being placed for the construction of the turbines.

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