Boost offshore wind manufacturing for energy security, economy and jobs – report

The UK needs to triple the rate at which it is installing offshore wind farms – and must boost manufacturing to meet demand, a report has warned.

A report by think tank IPPR says that on current rates of installation, the UK will miss its 2030 targets for offshore wind capacity by 18 years, as well as missing out on revenue and jobs from a thriving renewables sector.

The Government has set an ambitious target for the UK to have up to 50 gigawatts (GW) of installed offshore wind capacity by 2030, while Labour’s proposals are even more ambitious, with 55GW, as part of a push to decarbonise the energy grid.

But the IPPR report says the UK is falling behind in the race for wind manufacturing, and the country faces a tough future with low levels of manufacturing and increasing global supply shortages.

Despite its leading role in the amount of offshore wind it has installed – second only to China – the UK fails to be in the top three European nations for manufacturing any major component of the wind supply chain such as blades, towers or cables, the report warns.

If it had exploited its huge market for wind installation in manufacturing to the same extent as other leading nations such as Denmark, it would have generated  up to an additional £30 billion between 2008 and 2022, it says.

In less than five years the UK can and should build at least one additional turbine blade factory, two nacelle – the part which contains the generator – and tower factories, and two extra foundation factories.

IPPR calls for an investment of £3.2 billion in UK manufacturing facilities which it says could generate tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs.

But a failure to capitalise on the opportunity to boost offshore wind manufacturing would undermine the UK’s energy independence, put efforts to cut emissions to net zero by 2050 at risk and miss economic opportunities.

The report calls for support for businesses to expand the manufacturing supply chain, ensure developers have long term contracts to secure demand and upgrade infrastructure by renovating ports and naval vessels to deliver offshore wind farms.

Simone Gasperin, associate fellow at IPPR, said:  ‘‘The UK has missed out from becoming a world leader not just in wind power, but also in wind manufacturing.

“This has cost thousands of jobs, billions for the economy, and is putting future net zero targets for wind deployment at risk.

“However, the UK is uniquely placed to become a world leader in manufacturing equipment for offshore wind farms.

“The government should grasp this opportunity with both hands and do all it can to maximise the manufacturing opportunity of its offshore wind power targets.’’

Ajai Ahluwalia, head of supply chain at industry body Renewable UK, said: “The IPPR’s report highlights the extraordinary opportunity that the UK has to land hundreds of millions of pounds of new investment in offshore wind manufacturing.

“It is timely as it coincides with a newly-released offshore wind industrial growth plan, created by RenewableUK, the Offshore Wind Industry Council, The Crown Estate and Crown Estate Scotland.

“This shows how to triple our offshore wind manufacturing capacity over the next ten years, supporting an additional 10,000 jobs a year and boosting the UK’s economy by a further £25 billion between now and 2035.

“The plan identifies the high-value areas which the UK should focus on, including the design and manufacture of offshore wind blades and turbine towers, foundations, electrical systems and cables, enabling us to supply projects here as well as exporting worldwide to address global supply chain shortages in the years ahead,”