'The Humber is taking the first steps to a new industrial revolution' - Lord Prescott

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 2 May 2019

Lord Prescott has told how the Humber is the “first step in a new industrial revolution” for a low carbon world, underlining how it trumps Brexit on political importance.

Having led from the front in Kyoto, Paris and yesterday (Wednesday, May 1) in Parliament, the former Deputy Prime Minister returned to his former Hull seat to introduce Offshore Wind Connections 2019 at the behest of Team Humber Marine Alliance.

Now 22 years on since representing the EU on the first steps to climate targets on a collaborative international scale, he told how the Extinction Rebellion protests in London were having a profound effect on the politicos he is no longer as proud to be part of.

Noting how many of those bringing London to a halt over the past fortnight were not born when those first moves were made, he said: "It is about a revolution, and not a political one. It is an industrial revolution.

"I prefer meeting you than those silly buggers in Parliament who cannot make a decision. What we are here talking about is a bigger revolution than Brexit or all of them. It is about climate change and moving to a low carbon economy.

Hugh McNeal, Lord Prescott and Mark O'Reilly at Offshore Wind Connections 2019. 

“Where coal and steel were the embodiment of the old industrial revolution, the new one requires new energy and that’s undeniably renewables.”

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Telling of his pride at leading on climate change for Europe back in 1997, he said: “This is a global problem that needs a global solution, which is what Kyoto was about all those years ago, economies coming together and accepting the science.

“This is a conference talking about the future, not a more efficient future, a better one, motivated by cutting back carbon.

“This Humber Estuary, to which I welcome you today is going to make a major contribution to this new industrial revolution because water and wind are the very products, the new energy processes.

“The Humber is uniquely placed as an estuary and as I tried to argue when targets were set at Kyoto and Paris, we have to reduce it to regions, we have to get greater co-operation and recognise what we can do with the decisions we make; that they can really make change happen at a local level.

Orsted's service operation vessels that sail from Grimsby. and below, Siemens Gamesa's facility at Hull.

“The Humber is the first step to a new industrial revolution. We have water and wind coming out of our ears, we have plenty of it. They are the new resources for energy, and attract the technology that is going to make it.

“We built the Humber as an estuarial development, which we all now agree should be the way. An energy intensive Humber is a unique corridor of growth for these first steps.  Hull and Grimsby is a big thing to come together as we know, it is happening. The energy, the place and the location facts are all here. Thank God someone is now looking at the Humber area – as it is the best first step to a new industrial revolution.”

He followed Hugh McNeal, pictured below, chief executive of trade body Renewable UK, who told how he was on his fourth visit to the Humber in five weeks, having made the commute from London on so many occasions, first as a civil servant steering the Siemens blade development, then in his current role.

“I have one of the very best jobs available in our country at this moment in time,” he said. “I have been coming here for over a decade trying to make offshore wind and renewables a key part of this area, and I have been lucky enough to come up four times in the last month or so as the Local Enterprise Partnership designs its local industrial strategy.

Hugh McNeal at Offshore Wind Connections 2019.

“With each passing event the crowd and opportunity becomes bigger and bigger and that is absolutely fantastic.”

Within three years there will be 10 operational wind farms off the Humber, with the world's two largest among them, generating virtually 5GW of electricity. A clear path to 8GW is also laid, with potentially more to come as a fourth round of developments emerge. Grimsby operates and maintains, while - in the main - Hull provides blade manufacture and pre-assembly of the huge structures. 

Innogy was thanked by host, Mark O’Reilly, chief executive of Team Humber Marine Alliance, for the headline sponsorship, and he praised the decision to base itself in Grimsby for its Triton Knoll offshore wind farm development. It too is developing Sofia, another potential target for the Humber. 

Mark O'Reilly at the Offshore Wind Connections 2019 reception. 

GE was another company being courted as it brings forward its turbine technology, while Orsted, Siemens Gamesa, ABP and several first tier contractors were also present, so too a field of academia and support services either already engaged or looking to break in to the sector. International visitors from east and west also converged, keen to learn about cluster development as first steps into offshore wind are made elsewhere.

Of the sell-out event, with the main conference taking place today (Thursday, May 2), Mr O'Reilly said: “This is our seventh Offshore Wind Connections, and it gets bigger and better, and that reflects the industry.

“We have been ploughing a furrow for over 10 years in offshore wind, trying to build with this industry that has grown so much.  It has been difficult but it is coming together now quite nicely and we will talk about the Offshore Wind Sector Deal in more detail tomorrow.”

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