Offshore wind to make eastern towns “honeypots for investment”

East coast communities are destined to be “honeypots for investment” as decades of opportunity lie ahead in the rapidly-growing offshore wind industry. The region’s “diverse and collaborative” supply chain is also perfectly placed to export its expertise overseas winning contracts in the burgeoning European industry, more than 200 industry representatives were told at an event to celebrate the industry at Lowestoft

The £22 billion being invested in offshore wind farm construction off the east coast, that will cost another £550 million a year to run, will help to reverse years of decline in Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth, Waveney MP Peter Aldous said.

This investment – and the supply chain companies setting up in and moving to the area – was giving local people hope for a better future, as well as providing an international exemplar to tackle climate change, he told an event to celebrate the industry in Lowestoft organised by the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR).
As well as a lengthy pipeline of UK contracts, the expertise of the “world-class” supply chain is prime to be exported overseas as the east of England leads the UK’s switch from a black to green economy.

The east coast has the potential to deliver 50% of the UK’s energy needs under the Energy Sector Deal that Energy Minister Claire Perry predicts will be signed by Christmas.

Martin Dronfield, chair of EEEGR Offshore Wind Special Interest Group (SIG) and offshore wind sector deal champion, told the Offshore Wind Week event at OrbisEnergy: “A new sustainable journey has begun. It is happening in this region.Decarbonisation by electrification, and the east of England is keeping the lights on.”

“Some huge sums of money” will be coming into the east of England that already employs 20,000 people in nearly 1500 businesses in the “diverse and collaborative” supply chain, he said.

“We are the closest region to some incredible offshore wind developments on the west side of Europe,” he said, forecasting huge export potential for eastern region companies.

“The links that the east of England has with the Netherlands, Belgium, France are already incredibly strong. There is a powerful opportunity to take our skills and learning. It is about collaboration and creating clusters. We are only 60-70 miles away.”

“We are constantly approached by people. Innovation is absolutely at the heart of what this region has to do to move this industry forward and getting costs down and efficiency relies hugely on technology.”

Waveney MP Peter Aldous warned developers that public support for the industry could be affected by local companies missing out on the work.

“At a time when the SNS is the focus of an enormous amount of activity or offshore wind that fact that yards are here and are not able to take advantage of this could well undermine the public support for the industry.”

Referring to Lowestoft’s Sembmarine SLP, he added: “There is a need for developers to sit down with fabricators and, if necessary with the government. There is a yard here that currently doesn’t have any work. It looks very bad.”

The east of England’s “exemplar in the drive for climate change” could be rolled out across the world.

Mr Dronfield said a Sector Deal would offer huge opportunities for the east of England to export its skills. “We are here, we are strong, we are full of incredible companies.”

Updates from developers included Vattenfall, which plans to build Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas. Danielle Lane, head of portfolio and transaction, encouraged businesses to get involved in its supply chain plan.

“We are interested in in-depth relationships with the people we are working with. We are looking forward to doing that on an enduring basis in East Anglia.”

Chris Leach, project execution director, East Anglia ONE, ScottishPower Renewables, revealed that contracts still to come on East Anglia ONE would be for crew transfer vessels (CTVs) operations and maintenance, servicing, offshore support and operations.

Thore Schreiber, head of business development and sales, Rhenus Offshore Logistics, said “astonishing” 30-40% cost reduction potential lay in shared cargo runs, with similar savings offered by shared CTVs and helicopter flights.