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New jobs could offer Lowestoft a big chance

PUBLISHED: 09:45 14 January 2011

LOWESTOFT will today (Friday) have a golden chance to stake its claim for major new investment and jobs in the burgeoning renewable energy industry.

Energy minister Charles Hendry will pay his first visit to the town to outline the coalition government’s support for the renewables industry during a summit to discuss opportunities for investment and job creation.

The meeting will take place at the OrbisEnergy centre, near Ness Point, which has already helped Lowestoft to become the operational base for Greater Gabbard, the largest offshore windfarm in the world. This is now under construction.

It will also seek to highlight the town’s proximity to the East Anglia Array offshore windfarm; the planned new £11m energy skills centre, which could open in Lowestoft within 18-24 months; plus its skills base and specialist business knowledge.

About 50 people from the energy industry and the private sector have been invited to the gathering, and OrbisEnergy and Waveney MP Peter Aldous were this week looking forward to hosting this “first” for the town.

“I’ve been talking to the energy minister an awful lot about the opportunities here, and I’m delighted he has accepted the invitation to see it for himself,” Mr Aldous told The Journal. “We have a great renewables base here and in the local area, and in the local area, and it will be great to hear feedback from them as to what the government needs to be doing to ensure that the East Anglian coast and Lowestoft fulfils that role.

“I want him to be leaving Lowestoft with a very positive impression - and with the right infrastucture and skills here the potential is to create new jobs that Lowestoft and the country needs,” Mr Aldous said.

“Our general presence in being near to the two major wind farms being constructed and also our skills base, which is built up from the shipbuilding and fishing industries, is very important in taking these skills on for the new generation. This seminar is very much about speaking with people who are involved and very much interested in the energy sector.

“I think that if you look at Lowestoft’s past and it’s heritage by the sea, the importance of energy with the move towards renewables and the links already in place, then it provides Lowestoft with a temendous opportunity to grasp for the future,” Mr Aldous added.

Echoing these sentiments, Johnathan Reynolds, business development at OrbisEnergy, told The Journal: “It is the first time the minister has been to OrbisEnergy and also the first time in Lowestoft - so we are keen for him to take away a real sense that Lowestoft is building a centre for renewables.

“Orbis was a catalyst for offshore wind and renewables, but we want to build on that now and we are looking at how we can access funding from the £1.4bn Regional Growth Fund.”

The Regional Growth Fund (RGF) is a new £1.4bn, three-year fund, which opened for business last October. It will operate across England to stimulate private sector led sustainable economic growth and employment. aimed at creating jobs and “rebalancing” the economy in the face of public sector spending cuts.

“We are looking at how we can put together a package of support for this as it’s all about job creation,” Mr Reynolds said. “Being in such a close proximity to the market, no-one else in the UK or even the world can offer this - so with the work of Orbis, EEEGR and Mr Aldous we want to ensure that jobs are created in Lowestoft.”

John Best, Chief Executive of East of England Energy Group (EEEGR), said he was delighted” that the meeting was taking place and that the group was determined to showcase the region’s skills as the world’s leading energy hub.

“We are delighted that this visit is happening and with so many interfaces we are keen to ensure that we work seamlessly with all other players,” Mr Best said. EEEGR has been consistent in encouraging the region to present its rich portfolio of energy assets through one compelling voice. Maintaining a skilled and competent workforce is critical to our success in securing greater investment in the region.

“Work on the Energy Episcentre is moving into the final stages of site selection and we expect a clear decision within months,” Mr Best added.

Locally, Lowestoft College is also working with the East of England Skills for Energy partnership, ECITB, Cogent and Great Yarmouth Borough Council and are in the second year of running a pioneering Energy Skills Foundation Programme designed to help meet the growing demand for skills in the energy sector.

“Lowestoft College sees the ongoing developments in the offshore energy sector as hugely positive for Lowestoft and Waveney,” Simon Summers, the college’s principal and chief executive, said.

“The College’s traditional strengths in Engineering, Maritime and Offshore training are uniquely relevant to the future skills needs of the industry. These will give us the ability to offer a ‘one stop training shop’ for the whole energy sector and wind farm operators in particular.”

Tomorrow, the Energy Minister will also officially unveil the new business premises of Gaoh Energy <corr> in Canning Road, Lowestoft,

Dedicated to the development of on and offshore renewable energy resources, Paul Carter, of Gaoh Energy Limited, told The Journal: “We are really looking forward to the minister’s visit and it is a great opportunity for our business, which has expertise in oil, gas and renewables, to grow in Lowestoft given the potential for renewable energy.”

FACTFILE

Two of the biggest wind farm developments off the east coast are the East Anglia Array and the Greater Gabbard:

• ScottishPower Renewables and Vattenfall, the developers of the East Anglia Array offshore wind farm zone, which covers around 6,037km2 of the seabed in an area offshore of Norfolk and Suffolk - with the closest part of the zone to the coastline around 12km offshore from Covehithe and Southwold. Initial studies on the potential of the zone, which is due to make its first planning application next year, is for a target capacity of up to 7200MW, which could provide enough clean, green energy for over five million homes.

• The Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Limited is a 50/50 joint venture partnership between Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and RWE npower renewables. The wind farm project consists of 140 3.6MW wind turbines manufactured by Siemens, with three 45km long cables, known as export cables, bringing power onshore with a connection to the national transmission network at Sizewell, Suffolk and an operations base in Lowestoft employing around 100 people

As of last November, all 140 turbine foundations have been installed and 55 turbines are now in place with the main contractor, Fluor, expecting the first export of electricity back to land before the end of this year as the wind farm remains on schedule for completion in 2012.

Greater Gabbard is the world’s largest offshore wind farm in construction, with the wind turbines located around two sandbanks known as Inner Gabbard and The Galloper in the North Sea, off the Suffolk Coast.

When fully operational, the turbines will have a capacity of 504 megawatts, which will provide enough clean electricity to power around 530,000 homes.

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