When a brochure for the area’s new brand, Norfolk & Suffolk Unlimited, read ‘Welcome to the UK’s Clean Growth Region’, it was no idle boast.
In July, Swedish energy giant Vattenfall was given government consent for the Norfolk Vanguard Offshore Wind Farm, 47km from the coast. When built, it will generate 1.8 Gigawatts (GW) of clean electricity. That is sufficient to power almost two million homes each year, while saving more than three million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions – the same as taking around 1.6 million cars off the road.
Wind farms off our coast will be among the world’s largest as the region builds on its current global-leading status in providing green energy.
Norfolk and Suffolk are no latecomers to the energy party. We have more than half a century of offshore experience, a unique blend of ports and infrastructure, expertise and skills, and a supply chain of more than 800 businesses.
Oil and Gas has been a mainstay of its economy for more than 50 years, and the more recent move towards renewables has created what a recent report to Norfolk County Council described as ‘the single most important economic opportunity for a generation’.
The development of an Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Campus, partly within an Enterprise Zone at the southern tip of Great Yarmouth South Denes Peninsula, intends to exploit this golden opportunity by attracting investment from companies that will operate, service and maintain existing and future wind farms. The first phase of this project will enhance or create new quay and pontoon facilities for businesses locating nearby.
This collaboration between Norfolk County Council, Great Yarmouth Borough Council and the New Anglia LEP promises to enhance the port’s, and the region’s, O&M capability and offer offshore wind operators the shortest journey to the North Sea. Analysis suggests it could lead to more than 500 new jobs.
Great Yarmouth is near offshore energy projects in the southern North Sea estimated to be worth more than £39billion in the next 20 years. It is home to over 50% of the UK’s installed capacity and further growth is planned over the next 10 years.
New Anglia LEP is also working with Associated British Ports, East Suffolk Council and Suffolk County Council on ambitious plans to expand the capability of Lowestoft Port, a major base for offshore wind O&M activity.
Of course, we will need the right people to take full advantage of the coming opportunities, and the East of England Offshore Wind Skills Centre at East Coast College’s Lowestoft campus, will ensure the pipeline of workers remains constant. The centre, in which New Anglia LEP invested £9m, is an employer-led initiative which retrains adults for new careers and college-leavers for their first jobs.
When it comes to energy, the region wears its ambitions firmly on its sleeve.
A collaborative bid for £29m in funding which would further enhance the area’s reputation as a clean energy powerhouse and generate high-value jobs is being led by the University of East Anglia and has already passed the first stage.
The UEA is collaborating on the project with the UK’s Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science () which is headquartered in Lowestoft, and the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, which opened a new regional office at in 2019.
‘Suffolk & Norfolk Research & Innovation on the Sustainable Energy Coast’, or ‘ Coast’ for short, would bring these three world-leading research institutions together with the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR), the New Anglia LEP and industry in the first clean energy initiative of its kind.
Chris Starkie, chief executive of New Anglia LEP, said: “Innovation and the translation of research into commercial opportunity are key drivers of economic growth and the proposed Coast programme offers a significant opportunity to build on our existing clean energy research and innovation strengths across our universities, and ORE Catapult’s new Lowestoft facility.
“Our region is in an excellent position to benefit from investment in clean energy, and the Norfolk and Suffolk Local Industrial Strategy affirms our commitment to leading the way as the UK’s clean growth region.”
East coast offers ‘Unlimited’ investment potential
Clean growth is the golden thread running through a campaign to showcase the region’s economic strengths and encourage businesses to invest here.
Norfolk & Suffolk Unlimited is a brand for the area focused on the burgeoning sectors of clean energy, agri-food and digital/tech, and highlights to businesses the excellent connectivity, high levels of support and quality of life on offer.
Led by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, it will help deliver the ambitions of the region’s economic strategy to 2036. It is being delivered in partnership with Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils and has the endorsement of the Department for International Trade.
Clean energy – the stats
• Clean energy is expected to attract more than £60bn in investment
in our region by 2040.
• Offshore energy in the East of England supports more than 8,000 businesses and
• Opportunities in offshore wind O&M will be worth an estimated £1.3bn by 2025.
• Nearly 4 Gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind power is operational off the region, 52% of the UK’s current capacity.
To find out more about the region’s energy sector and the investment opportunities, go to www.norfolksuffolkunlimited.co.uk