Siemens plants UK 'game changer'

Siemens’ announcement that it will go ahead with two offshore turbine manufacturing sites in northeast England was hailed as a watershed moment by the UK’s wind industry and government alike.

Industry body RenewableUK said the German group’s £160m ($263m) plan is “a major coup” for the UK wind sector, and will hopefully be the first of many in an expanding offshore wind supply chain.

The Siemens facilities in Hull – handily placed to serve major offshore wind projects in the North Sea – is the first major manufacturing investment to flow from the UK’s world-leading offshore wind-build plans.

RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffery said: “It’s the green-collar jobs game-changer that we’ve been waiting for. Attracting a major international company like Siemens to the UK, creating 1,000 jobs manufacturing turbines at two sites in Yorkshire, proves that we can bring the industrial benefits of offshore wind to Britain.

“This is just the start. Where Siemens are leading, a cascade of others will follow – and we’ll see very significant growth in the UK supply chain,” predictedMcCaffery.

Andrew Jamieson, chief executive of the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, said: "As well as securing up to 1,000 direct jobs it will play a major part in developing the supply chain, supporting many thousands more and developing skills and capabilities that will deliver huge economic benefits to the UK for decades to come.

“This investment is a significant international vote of confidence in the UK's offshore renewable energy industry and ambitions."

The ORE Catapult recently said the UK could reap a huge economic windfall if it delivers the upper end of its offshore wind installation ambitions.

Offshore developer Dong Energy said: "Today's announcement is testament to the capabilities on offer in the UK and demonstrates the huge opportunity to develop a thriving supply chain for the offshore wind sector."

The news will come as a particular relief to the UK government, which has been keen to show that offshore wind can deliver jobs and investment as well as low-carbon power.

A planned Vestas offshore wind plant in southeast England failed to make it off the drawing board, and the renewables sector has faced claims that UK policy was feeding overseas manufacturing.

The Hull plant has been mooted since 2011, and a final investment decision was originally expected as early as 2012. But this slipped – partly, it is understood as a result over concerns at the evolution of the UK energy policy under the ruling Coalition government.

The delay caused anxiety at the highest level of government, with Prime Minister David Cameron questioned over the progress of the project and energy minister Greg Barker challenging Siemens to “get real” over its plans in an interview with Recharge last September.

But the bigger-than-expected investment announced today means it will have been worth the wait for the politicians.

UK energy secretary Ed Davey said: “This deal is excellent news for the people of Hull and the Humber, the UK, the wind industry, and our energy security. We are attracting investment by backing enterprise with better infrastructure and lower taxes.

“This deal shows our strategy for offshore wind is working; bringing investment, green jobs and growth, and helping keep Britain the number one country in the world for offshore wind.”