Tony McDonough writes:
A new era of investment into the offshore wind sector offers huge opportunities for Liverpool city region maritime businesses.
That was the message delivered to business owners, executives and professionals at special event hosted by Mersey Maritime, addressed by experts in the UK’s booming clean energy sector.
Earlier this year, the Government unveiled a £40bn plan to ensure a third of electricity in Britain would be provided by offshore wind by 2030. The new Offshore Wind Growth Partnership would boost the UK supply chain with global exports set to increase fivefold to £2.6bn by 2030.
This sector deal will mean for the first time in UK history there will be more electricity from renewables than fossil fuels, with 70% of British electricity predicted to be from low carbon sources by 2030 and more than £40bn of infrastructure investment in the UK.
The deal has inspired a major cross-sector, cross-regional collaborative effort with Mersey Maritime and innogy Renewables UK joining forces to promote the Offshore Energy Alliance (OEA), the North West and North Wales newly-created supply chain cluster. It will provide support for offshore and energy related businesses and activities.
The UK’s current offshore generating capacity is around 8.5GW, with more than 3GW currency under construction. The Government’s target of 30GW by 2030 could be upped to 40GW if the Conservatives win the General Election, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said. With the cost of wind power falling rapidly, the opportunities are substantial.
Helen Thomas from innogy told those attending Mersey Maritime’s Offshore & Energy Forum, that the offshore cluster, comprising wind farms off the coast of Merseyside, North Wales and Cumbria, currently supplied a third of the UK’s generating capacity.
She explained how the partnership with Mersey Maritime had the potential to be a powerful driving force. She said: “When we came across Mersey Maritime we saw how great the synergies were.
“Our cluster comprises 12 offshore wind farms, providing one-third of the UK’s capacity. There are big opportunities on extensions for existing wind farms and on new wind farms under the UK’s Round Four. It is also about linking up with other clusters. Productivity, knowledge and innovation are all being driven by clusters.”
Helen also emphasised that the opportunities for North West and North Wales suppliers weren’t limited to UK offshore wind expansion. With offshore wind growing rapidly across the world, she said, there were opportunities for businesses to export their expertise and knowledge overseas.
Ruth Wood, head of commercial at Mersey Maritime, told those assembled that this event, held at the beginning of Offshore Wind Week, was just the first in a series of events that the organisation planned to hold quarterly.
She spoke about how the Liverpool city region maritime sector was a dynamic powerhouse, generating £4.2bn a year and employing 52,000 people, and was ready and willing to take full advantage of the next phase of growth in offshore wind.
“Maritime is a growing, thriving industry,” she said. “The Offshore Energy Forum is something we have wanted to launch and we started to have conversations with innogy. For us, it made perfect sense to be part of the Offshore Energy Alliance.”
Other speakers to address the forum included Cheryl Whitaker, a business development manager at the Welsh Government, who spoke about the planned extension to the current Gwynt-y-Môr wind farm off the coast of North Wales.
And Stuart Barnes from the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, which helps businesses to commercialise their offshore energy innovations, said: “We are here as a resource to support UK plc. Britain has a great reputation for innovation but faces more of a challenge when it comes to commercialising and scaling that innovation.”
Look out on the Mersey Maritime events page for forthcoming Offshore Energy Forums.