UK 'could reap $11bn offshore'

Greater Gabbard is one of a quartet of UK offshore projects that came on line last year

Greater Gabbard in the UK

If the UK manages to build 10GW-15GW of offshore wind by 2020 it will reach a “tipping point”, triggering a dramatic spike in the economic value the industry brings to Britain, a new report claims.

In December the government published its Electricity Market Reform “delivery plan”, outlining two scenarios for the end of the year 2020 – in which the UK has either 8GW or 15GW of installed offshore wind capacity.

The difference in the economic benefits the two scenarios would bring to Britain is enormous, according to the new report, published by the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult.

With 15GW in place by the end of 2020, and all the right policy chips in place, the offshore wind sector will have delivered some £6.7bn ($11.1bn) of “Gross Value Add” (GVA) to the UK economy, along with 34,000 direct jobs.  

By contrast, with 8GW in place, and offshore wind still facing a variety of headwinds, the industry will have delivered a GVA of just £2.3bn – and created less than 12,000 direct jobs.

The report predicts that that even under the modest 8GW scenario, the UK will still have attracted one turbine assembly plant. Under the 15GW scenario, however, the UK is likely to have wooed a second factory.

Regardless of how much capacity the country builds by the end of the decade, it is not manufacturing but rather operations and maintenance that will make the biggest long-term contribution to the UK economy, the report claims.

“When the growth in new installed capacity ultimately slows, an increasing proportion of the total expenditure will be operational,” it says. 

“The accumulation of knowhow in the effective operation and maintenance of assets will provide an exportable service industry similar to that achieved by the oil and gas industry over recent decades.”

The Glasgow-based Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult was one of seven such “catapults” established by the UK government in 2012 to help the UK cement a leadership position in fields like future cities, the connected digital economy and satellite applications.

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