Investment in supply chain development and energy infrastructure, working with further education institutes, and enabling workers to move between offshore energy sectors, are at the heart of a long-awaited sector deal between industry and government.
The sector deal is also designed to help the UK offshore wind industry boost global exports five-fold to £2.6 billion (€3 billion) a year by 2030, the UK's department of business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) stated.
It also aims to increase the number of skilled jobs in the UK offshore wind sector from 7,200 today to 27,000 by 2030. These would be full-time jobs and not double-counted, an OWIC spokesman told Windpower Monthly - for example, cases of individual employees working on more than one project at once would be counted as one job, rather than multiple jobs.
The government has also challenged the sector to ensure women hold at least 33% of these jobs by this date, with an ambition of reaching 40%, up from 16% today.
BEIS envisages offshore wind supplying a third of British electricity by 2030. The sector will contribute to low carbon sources producing 70% of demand by the end of the next decade — meaning that for the first time, renewables would supply more electricity than fossil fuels.
The government had proposed the sector deal — a bespoke agreement between government and industry — as a way to raise productivity in the absence of support for low-carbon resources. It has been repeatedly delayed.
There is currently just under 8.2GW of operational wind capacity in UK waters. The government plans to hold a third Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction in May and further biennial tenders from 2021 to award further capacity.
"This new sector deal will drive a surge in the clean, green offshore wind revolution that is powering homes and businesses across the UK, bringing investment into coastal communities and ensuring we maintain out position as global leaders in this growing sector," said energy minister Claire Perry.
As part of the sector deal, the industry will invest £250 million through an Offshore Wind Growth Partnership to develop the UK supply chain and boost domestic companies’ capabilities in areas such as robotics, advanced manufacturing, and floating wind. This partnership is expected to launch before the summer with the first activities taking place in the third quarter of 2019.
Meanwhile, the government plans to create more contract opportunities for domestic companies by boosting the UK’s local content requirement to 60%.
Based on contracts for the UK’s seven most recent projects, non-domestic companies account for about 68% of capital expenditure, according to analysis by Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.
More than £40 billion will also be invested in UK energy infrastructure, the government stated.
The government also intends to create a so-called ‘offshore energy passport’. This would be recognised outside the UK, BEIS stated, and would allow workers to seamlessly transfer their skills to other offshore energy industries including renewables and oil and gas. It plans to consult industry on how this can be delivered.
BEIS would also work with colleges and universities to develop a sector-wide curriculum to help create a skilled and diverse workforce and facilitate the transfer of skilled workers into the industry.
It plans to announce new targets for increasing the numbers of apprentices in the offshore wind sector later this year.
Seabed landlords Crown Estate and Crown Estate Scotland also plan to release new land from this year for offshore wind development in 2019. Crown Estate is due to announce further details of its plans in "late spring", a spokeswoman told Windpower Monthly, while its Scottish counterpart intends to provide further details and timings in April, a spokesman confirmed.
BEIS will work alongside the UK’s department of trade and industry to support smaller companies in the UK supply chain export to markets in Europe, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the US for the first time.
The UK government will also provide more than £4 million for British businesses to share expertise globally and open new markets for export through a technical assistance programme to help countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan and the Philippines.
The sector deal aims to help fulfil targets of the UK’s Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) — which comprises representatives from developers, research centres, and government bodies. OWIC welcomed the deal.
"Now that we’ve sealed this landmark deal with our partners in government, as a key part of the UK’s Industrial Strategy, offshore wind is set to take its place at the heart of our low-carbon, affordable and reliable electricity system of the future," said its co-chair Benj Sykes.
Clean energy lobbying group RenewableUK’s chief executive Hugh McNeal added the sector deal would boost job creation and help people from other parts of the energy sector and the military transition into offshore wind.
"The deal will also ensure that the UK maintains its leading role as an offshore wind innovation hub, accelerating out world class research and development in fields like robotics and artificial intelligence, and cutting-edge technologies being put through their paces at our globally renowned test facilities," he said.
However, environmental pressure group Greenpeace argued the government’s target of 30GW under the sector deal was not enough to meet the UK’s climate goals.
It said around 45GW of offshore wind would be needed by 2030 to plug the gap left by scrapped nuclear power plants.
Greenpeace UK executive director, John Sauven, said: "The government's plans for a fleet of new nuclear reactors has collapsed. This leaves Britain with a big energy gap in future. It means the Government's latest offshore wind target of 30GW by 2030 is woefully inadequate.
"Renewable power now presents the best opportunity for cheaper, cleaner and faster decarbonisation. Wind and solar must be tripled between now and 2030, with offshore wind the future backbone of the UK's energy system.
"It’s a technology where the UK is already a global leader. And we could turn that leadership into more jobs and opportunities to export British know-how to the rest of the world."
When asked, BEIS did not comment on whether it agreed or disagreed with Greenpeace’s analysis of 30GW being insufficient. A spokeswoman stated: "The sector deal sets out a credible and sustainable pathway to delivering up to 30GW by 2030."