Offshore wind firms warn UK gov't

2030 target to decarbonise electricity sector must be agreed

Seven offshore wind turbine manufacturers have written to the UK energy minister Ed Davey expressing concern at the country's current energy policy. The letter is front page news in this morning’s print edition of The Times.

Siemens, Vestas, Alstom, Areva, Mitsubishi, Doosan and Gamesa have all signed a letter asking Davey to commit the UK to a 2030 target to decarbonise the country’s electricity sector. Two of the UK’s three main political parties support such a target, with only the Conservatives unwilling, thus far, to agree.

Without the target – which would bolster the fortunes of the UK’s world-leading offshore wind market – the turbine makers threaten to cancel plans to build turbine manufacturing plants.

Combined, the seven companies already employ 17,500 UK staff, although the vast majority of these are not involved in the offshore wind sector, but in areas such as health care technology, nuclear power and onshore wind. The companies describe themselves as "multinational technology leaders for the supply of low carbon power generation and associated services", and they emphasise that they have other opportunities to invest  "around the world".

The letter states: "Historically, the UK has benefited from being known as a country with low political risk for energy investments. Undermining that reputation would have damaging consequences for the scale of future investments in the UK energy sector."

Vestas and Doosan have already cancelled plans to build manufacturing plants in the UK, in Sheerness, Kent and Scotland respectively. Siemens and Gamesa continue to proceed with plans to build plants in Hull, northern England and Leith, Scotland.

Less is known about the other companies' plans. Alstom has been looking for factory locations in the north of England, but has made no commitments. While, Areva has also been looking for a site. None of the companies are likely to build unless they feel certain of winning orders from UK Round 3 developers.

The manufacturers have expressed concern at a lack of clarity in UK energy policy, especially with regard to the investment required for the 33GW Round 3 offshore wind programme.

This lack of clarity is largely the result of a power struggle within the UK’s coalition government. The Liberal Democrat party is supportive of renewables, and has strong influence over energy policy, via Davey.

However, Conservative finance minister, George Osborne, has increasingly focused on supporting construction of new gas-fired power stations, while his colleague, John Hayes, now a junior energy minister, has recently described himself as "arguably the most pro-nuclear energy minister in living memory".

Two other turbine manufacturers, REpower and GE, are not amongst the letter’s signatories. GE was originally set to make a multi-million investment in the UK to build its 4.1MW turbine. REpower's chief executive, Andreas Nauen, has previously said the company was considering a UK plant, but would only proceed if it received orders.