Offshore wind sector deal is done - RenewableUK director

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 7 Feb 2019

LEADING green industry lobbyist Emma Pinchbeck has told the Grimsby offshore wind cluster that a sector deal is now done.

RenewableUK’s executive director closed the hugely successful GRP19 conference in buoyant form, leaving Westminster’s corridors of power behind for a day at the gatehouse to an emerging 8GW of clean generation.

Having been anticipated before Christmas, with Energy Minister Claire Perry having set out a timeline, the offshore wind sector deal appeared to have been taken off the agenda as attempts are made to get Brexit through parliament.

Ms Pinchbeck, back on her Lincolnshire home patch, said: “We think a sector deal has been done. We haven't seen the details, but [it is] £2.4 billion of investment and a commitment to 30GW of power by 2030, and a third of electricity from offshore wind alone."

MIGHTY MARINER: Edda Passat, Orsted's service operation vessel for Race Bank offshore wind farm.

With her mother in Boston, she told how she was given daily updates on the progress of Triton Knoll’s onshore works as the electrical system snakes its way around the town, with Innogy's project director Julian Garnsey and equipment supplier MHI Vestas having opened the day.  

“We are looking at an additional 27,000 jobs by 2030, which tells us we have some staggering growth to come,” she enthused. “We can feel really proud of it, it is a British success story. We lead the G20 in emission reduction while growing the economy. It was not something people thought we could do back in 2008 - it was doubted in many quarters.

“Now, when discussed, it is one occasion where the UK walks into a foreign delegation and gets some respect. It is the biggest offshore wind industry in the world.”

MORE: Triton Knoll's arrival the toast of #GRP19

She told how there hadn’t been a change like what is being played out in the energy sector for decades, and told how decentralisation of the system was the direction of travel.

Grimsby has off grid ambition to build on the geographical advantage and adaptation of existing port infrastructure that has seen £57 million invested so far, and billions in the near waters.

“When we think of the Energy Estuary in London, we don’t just think of Hull, we think of Grimsby,” she reassured her audience.

READ ALL ABOUT IT: ABP commercial manager Gareth Russell and Port of Grimsby lead Ashley Curnow at #GRP19.

“Renewable UK is your trade body in Whitehall, lobbying government on your behalf, and all over the UK. Increasingly that job has become much easier, at least In Westminster. Outside of this room, and outside of this region, people are beginning to realise.”

And for Ms Pinchbeck, the trigger was Orsted’s jaw-dropping cost cut achieved over three years between projects, from £140 to £57.50 per MWh in the Government-led Contracts for Difference auction.

MORE: GRP chair describes offshore wind as most transformational inward investment ever seen

“I once said I wouldn’t work with wind turbines,” she said, of an industry dominated by huge corporations and the nature of it being “big kit at the very end of the electrical system”.

“It was 2015, and it was quite hard work talking to government about cimate change. I saw renewables was about to do something absolutely spectacular, and thought how exciting it would be on one of those wild tipping points.

“No-one thought it would be £57.50 apart from Orsted who knew what their bid was. That price drop clicked the light bulb on for what this industry is about. It is not just a climate change solution, but a growing industry that is providing cheaper power to UK customers, it makes it very difficult for Government to stand in the way and very easy to support a UK supply chain.

MORE: Why Grimsby's offshore wind conference gives the town a great stage from which to shine

“What really annoys me about Government is they fundamentally underestimate the industrial scale, jobs and growth that comes with it. The focus has been on cost per MWh, yet 90 per cent of the value of the industry is outside of London and the South East of England. It is currently the UK’s fifth biggest infrastructure project and that will rise to third next year as these projects take shape.

“It is comparative with automotive and aerospace, where we see Government falling over itself to support the supply chain. That’s what I spend most of my time yelling at officials about.” 

Ms Pinchbeck also told how her grandfather used to buy "the best kippers from Grimsby," and underlined the intrinsic link that binds the Humber port communities.

"We fundamentally believe offshore wind is part of UK maritime history and the maritime economy. Hugh McNeal, our chief executive at RenewableUK has been chairing the Maritime 2050 forum. We think offshore wind should be part of the offshore, energy and maritime sectors." 

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