East coast communities in the UK are destined to be “honeypots for investment” and decades of opportunity lie ahead in the rapidly-growing offshore wind industry.
The region’s ‘diverse and collaborative’ supply chain is also perfectly placed to export its expertise overseas winning contracts in the burgeoning European industry, industry representatives were told at an event to celebrate the industry.
The £22Bn being invested in offshore wind construction off the east coast, that will cost another £550M to run, will help to reverse years of decline in Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth, Waveney MP Peter Aldous said.
This investment – and the supply chain companies setting up in and moving to the area – was giving local people hope for a better future, as well as providing an international exemplar to tackle climate change, he told the event held in the east coast port town of Lowestoft organised by the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR).
As well as a lengthy pipeline of UK contracts, he said, the expertise of the world-class supply chain in the region is ready to be exported overseas.
EEEGR Offshore Wind Special Interest Group chairperson Martin Dronfield told the event, “A new sustainable journey has begun. It is happening in this region. Decarbonisation by electrification, and the east of England is keeping the lights on. “Some huge sums of money” will be coming into the east of England that already employs 20,000 people in nearly 1,500 businesses in the “diverse and collaborative” supply chain, he said. “We are the closest region to some incredible offshore wind developments on the west side of Europe,” Mr Dronfield explained, forecasting huge export potential for eastern region companies.
“The links that the east of England has with the Netherlands, Belgium, France are already incredibly strong. There is a powerful opportunity to take our skills and learning. It is about collaboration and creating clusters. We are only 60-70 miles away. We are constantly approached by people. Innovation is absolutely at the heart of what this region has to do to move this industry forward and getting costs down and efficiency relies hugely on technology.”
However, Mr Aldous warned developers that public support for the industry could be affected by local companies missing out on the work. “At a time when the southern North Sea is the focus of an enormous amount of activity or offshore wind the fact that yards here are not able to take advantage could undermine the public support for the industry,” he claimed.
Referring to Lowestoft’s Sembmarine SLP, he added, “There is a need for developers to sit down with fabricators and, if necessary, with the government. There is a yard here that currently doesn’t have any work.”
Mr Dronfield said a Sector Deal for offshore wind would offer huge opportunities for the east of England to export its skills.
Updates from developers included Vattenfall, which plans to build Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas. Danielle Lane, head of portfolio and transaction, encouraged businesses to get involved in its supply chain plan.
“We are interested in in-depth relationships with the people we are working with. We are looking forward to doing that on an enduring basis in East Anglia.”
ScottishPower Renewables East Anglia One project execution director Chris Leach revealed said there were still contracts to come on the project, including deals for crew transfer vessels (CTVs), operations and maintenance, and offshore support and operations.
Rhenus Offshore Logistics head of business development sand sales Thore Schreiber said 30-40% cost reduction potential lay in shared cargo runs, with similar savings offered by shared CTVs and helicopter flights.