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United Kingdom

Greenpeace campaigns for regional offshore wind

Greenpeace has joined companies in the Teesside area together with wind energy organisations to back its call for the UK government to create an offshore wind industry in north east England. Around 30,000 new jobs could be created by sourcing at least 10% of the country's electricity from offshore wind over the next decade, says Greenpeace.

In a report prepared for the environment group by Energy for Sustainable Development (ESD), Greenpeace shows that a 10% target would create 10,000 direct and 20,000 indirect jobs in the UK. ESD's analysis of the potential for making wind turbines in the north east reveals an area with well developed manufacturing industries and a workforce with the right skills, including electronics, scientific instrucments, information and offshore technologies and mechanical and precision engineering. The report points out that the area desperately needs new industries to take the place of coal and traditional manufacture. High unemployment rates are coupled with the lowest labour costs for manufacturing in northern Europe.

Energy Minister John Battle announced in September 1998 a consultation exercise to decide how to stimulate offshore wind development under the Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation. He believes offshore wind to be one of the major technologies to help the UK meet its target of 10% of electricity from renewables by 2010.

The UK's offshore wind resource could generate three times the country's electricity needs, yet the government is not providing the long term support the industry needs, says Simon Reddy from Greenpeace. "The government talks about a 10% total renewable target by 2010, but has no idea how to achieve it," he says. "In the case of offshore wind, Greenpeace believes that it alone needs an initial target of 10% by 2010 if we are going to provide a serious kick-start to a wind manufacturing base."

Nick Goodall from the British Wind Energy Association agrees. He paints a picture of companies ranging from small consultancies to giant oil and engineering concerns -- such as Shell, Mobil, Odebrecht and Norsk Hydro -- keen to be involved in offshore wind. "The money is out there; the billion pound investment in just one round of offshore wind will come from the private sector," he says. "The jobs, factories, export opportunities and contribution to greenhouse gas avoidance measures are all there for the taking. One thing is missing -- the decision to implement a planned program of support for offshore wind parks."

His concerns are echoed by Peter Hunter from NEG Micon UK, the base for the Danish wind turbine manufacturer's offshore technology development. He says the company will only expand in the UK if it can see a sustainable market. "In order to justify further investments in the UK, we need to know that the government is committed to a long term offshore wind development program. We cannot build a local industry on one project, one round of an offshore program." Reddy warns that if the government does not catalyse a market, "The industry and jobs will go elsewhere in Europe."

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