Light-hearted clash over government support for offshore wind at Race Bank inauguration
Lord Haskins, left, and Matthew Wright on stage at the Race Bank inauguration in Grimsby.
By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 13 Jun 2018
GUEST of honour and host voiced differing opinions over Government support for renewables at the inauguration celebration for Race Bank offshore wind farm.
Orsted UK managing director praised successive Westminster administrations for consistently supporting the emerging industry, creating an environment for Britain to lead the world. But Lord Haskins, chairman of Humber Local Enterprise Partnership – billed as a great friend and unstinting supporter by Orsted– said “shilly shallying” over long term policy was undermining confidence in the supply chain.
Mr Wright had thanked central government first in his speech, stating that “without the support that has been made available over a decade or more for renewable energy, we would not be here today”. He said: “We would not have had an investment framework to build these projects. The UK leads the world in offshore wind, leads the world in decarbonising the grid and many more countries are now following. The aid of successive governments, and consistent support for renewable technology has allowed us to be able to do this.”
Having gone on to thank local government for “welcoming with open arms” over the last seven years “helping us to realise the benefits of offshore wind for the Humber and wider country,” Lord Haskins was welcomed to the stage.
And taking his turn at the lectern, it became politicised as he took issue with his host’s comments about Westminster’s position – with offshore wind champion Baroness Brown of Cambridge an interested onlooker.
He said: “It is the LEP’s role to lobby government and we need an energy policy. Our Government doesn’t think beyond 24 hours, or 20 minutes last night in the House of Commons,” he said referring to last ditch concessions on the Brexit Bill.
“For this we need a 15 year plan, which other countries are preparing. We have got to get Government to commit to that. Commitment is there, but not – significantly – written down to give confidence to the supply chain.”
A sector deal has been unveiled, with senior Orsted executive Benj Sykes co-chairing the Offshore Wind Industry Council with a minister, but the deal needs sign-off. Reports on supply chain positioning are underway and as he lambasted the “shilly shallying” Mr Wright light heartedly pretended to attempt to pull his guest from the stage, and adding a disclaimer for his comments on completion.
“We need to raise the skills base in this area,” Lord Haskins continued. “So far we have had a very encouraging experience with the way our people have risen to the occasion and provided the companies with what they need. We need to strengthen the Humber supply chain, and make sure, with government, that the environment is suitable to get people to invest in the long term in this area.”
Well aware how important the river is to the region, Lord Haskins said: “Ports are fine, but they don’t create enough jobs. What you need to do is get business to stop and do something around the ports and that’s exactly what is happening here.
“If you said to me six years ago the cost of offshore wind would have halved in that period I wouldn’t have believed you. No-one would have contemplated it. This process is continuing for the next 20 years on this scale.
“The arrival of the renewables industry has created potential for huge additional value for the Humber region in terms of construction, assembly and maintenance. Energy is the key sector that 11 LEPs in the north of England adopted with a minister there. It is my objective that we are the first among equals. We have to be in the lead position and we are taking every step to do that. Very significantly we have two global companies behind all we are doing (Orsted and Siemens Gamesa), and the relationship we have built is tremendous.”