At the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR) UK Wind Week conference, Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney, told delegates that the East of England could be a “global exemplar” showing the rest of the world how offshore wind is developed and the “engine room of the UK” for investment, innovation and skills for decades to come.
During the event at OrbisEnergy in Lowestoft, he said the region won’t settle for “just levelling up” as it works to at least quadruple its fleet of offshore turbines generating green renewable energy to power lives and industry across the UK.
“We want to be best in class with a legacy of enhanced skills,” he said.
The event, sponsored by GENERATE, ScottishPower Renewables, Equinor, Orsted and Vattenfall, concluded a week of activities across the UK celebrating wind energy’s contribution to a greener future. More than 100 people were in attendance at the event with more joining online.
“When it comes to the nation’s energy, the East of England is changing,” Mr Aldous said. “We have been the best supporting actor. We now have the opportunity to step up and be the leading actor – 30% of the UK’s electricity will come through Suffolk and 50% of our offshore wind fleet is off our coasts.”
The industry was bringing “tangible benefits to coastal communities in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft,” he said.
Mr Aldous was joined on stage by offshore wind developers, supply chain leaders, port leaders, students and young people shaping careers in the fast-growing industry.
With almost 50% of the UK’s offshore wind off its coastline already, the East of England Offshore Wind Cluster is taking shape to promote and shape the region’s capability, technology and leadership.
But the region must raise its image nationally to attract inward investment, according to Dan McGrail, CEO of RenewableUK, who said it was important to attract “companies that are not already in renewables but have potential to bring something, whether they are transitioning from oil and gas or other sectors.”
Martin Dronfield, executive chair of EEEGR, pointed to the £60 billion of capital investment to be spent on offshore wind off the region in the next three decades.
“It is the most exciting time for offshore wind,” he said. “We will continue to dominate the offshore wind landscape for many years to come. Our region is also ideally placed to take advantage of future yet to be named developments in two of the zones government will action in the next few years.”
Projects were acting as a catalyst for massive investment for our region, including the £25 million upgrade at ABP Lowestoft, the £18 million operations and maintenance base development at Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft’s PowerPark and Harwich and Felixstowe’s “exciting Freeport status”.
Andy Reay, ABP’s head of commercial offshore wind, outlined the five-year Lowestoft Eastern Energy Facility’s (Project LEEF) plan to invest in the port’s Outer Harbour and adjacent land to accommodate larger vessels to support offshore wind.
Michael Somerville, projects controls manager for ScottishPower Renewables’ East Anglia Hub project, said the hub team had grown by 100 employees in the past 18 months to more than 180. With an investment of £180 million so far in the hub, the team are looking forward to positive results from the examinations for East Anglia ONE North and East Anglia TWO by the Secretary of State next January. The hub will deliver 7.5% of the government’s 2030 offshore wind target.
“We will continue engagement with the supply chain,” said Mr Somerville. “We are fully committed to the success of the region through the East Anglia Hub.”
Johnathan Reynolds, managing director of Opergy, called for an integrated strategy to balance supply and increasing demand for electricity.
“About a fifth of the UK’s solar assets are in the East of England. We don’t talk enough about solar and the whole range of bioenergy projects and how they integrate.”
Anne Haase, business development director for Petrofac, said: “East Anglia has got absolutely everything and there will be a gigantic future.”
With 200 permanent employees in East Anglia, Petrofac was focusing on the “skills crunch” – addressing the “mindful transition” from oil and gas to renewables to create multi-skilled personnel that can move between different environments by 2025.
For more information, please visit www.generate-energy.co.uk