The UK’s top trade official for Europe said it would be “silly” if Britain remains shut out from a key regional offshore renewables cooperation body after Brexit, saying collaboration with the EU is “critical” for both to meet their goals.
UK trade commissioner for Europe, Richard Burn, said another route would need to be found to discuss complex jurisdictional issues around offshore wind grid interconnection and other topics if Britain’s exclusion from the North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC) group continues.
Britain has been shut out since it formally left the EU in January, with its future status in the group in doubt along with a plethora of other co-operation and trade issues under discussion as part of post-Brexit negotiations. The NSEC’s other members are are Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Sweden, along with non-EU member Norway.
Burn said working with the EU was vital for both sides as the UK seeks to interconnect its planned 40GW of offshore wind by 2030 more closely with the European mainland.
“Collaboration with Europe is critical. We can only achieve this by working together,” Burn told a session of the Wind TV conference platform run by WindEurope during the WindEnergy Hamburg online industry event.
“We’re very keen to work with our European partners, ideally through the NSEC.
“The European Commission considers that a European [EU] body – we don’t agree, [but] they are at the moment excluding us from talking to our European colleagues through that.”
Burn said if the shut-out from that body continues “we hope we can find another one that works just as well”, and added: “We could create another multilateral body, but it seems a bit silly as there is one there already.”
In the meantime, Burn confirmed that bilateral talks are underway directly with European governments over shared objectives in offshore wind, with the future connection of giant projects on both sides of the North Sea a live issue.
Recharge reported on Tuesday how the energy ministers of Belgium and the UK discussed the issue as recently as this week.
Burn said the UK is seeking to ramp-up inward investment in the UK as it seeks to propel its share of local content from about 25% now to 60%.
The nations will also invest in ports and other infrastructure to underpin the offshore wind build-out, he said.
Burn spoke as the UK government invited bids to build a “single large coastal manufacturing site for the offshore wind industry, able to generate manufacturing clusters where several large-scale producers can co-locate”.
The Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said up to £70m ($93.2m) of support would be available to winning bidder.