UK industry-government forum the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) has launched a study into the market for fixed and floating turbine foundations as the lead-off project in a new £100m ($125m), ten-year scheme to support supply chain companies in capitalising on the “huge opportunities” in the rapidly growing global industry.

The Offshore Wind Growth Partnership (OWGP), being chaired by former Formula 1 McLaren team CEO Martin Whitmarsh, aims to identify likely barriers to development of a home-grown foundation fabrication sector and “make recommendations to overcome these challenges”.

The four-month scoping exercise will be the first in a series being undertaken by the OWGP to support over 650 companies to deliver 60% UK content in offshore wind farms.

Benj Sykes, Ørsted UK country manager for offshore and industry chair of OWIC, which is spearheading the so-called offshore wind ‘sector deal’, said: “The offshore wind industry is offering multi-million pound opportunities to hundreds of innovative companies throughout the UK in the years ahead–including new entrants to the market as well as firms already working in this area.

“The OWGP will provide practical help for UK companies so they can compete successfully for contracts in this thriving global market. The UK’s global pre-eminence in offshore wind means we are uniquely placed to sell our innovative products and services worldwide”.

But, trade union GMB slammed the initiative, highlighting that “to date the majority of the potential benefits from the boom in offshore wind, and renewables in general, have passed the UK workforce and economy by”.

“Look no further than the yards lying idle in Fife [Scotland] as contracts go offshore to Spain, Indonesia and the Middle East,” said GMB national secretary Justin Bowden. “Securing decent jobs in the renewables industry and its supply chain, and fairness in how decarbonisation costs are met, is now paramount.

“For this to happen, the political decision-making must not become separated from the economic consequences and the question of who pays,” said Bowden.

Bowden said the UK parliament must set out “legally binding” rules around five key points to ensure :

“Firstly, establishing an official register of all companies receiving public subsidies. No company registered offshore in a tax haven can be eligible to be on the register or paid subsidies.

“Secondly, the percentage of the agreed supply chain which must be sourced in the UK must be a binding and legally enforceable condition of each project being awarded subsidies.

“Third, the companies on the register building and running projects, and all their contractors and sub-contractors must be covered by a new national recognition and collective bargaining agreement encompassing all workers in the sector.

“Fourth, to qualify for subsidies, all information on the output and performance of all renewables energy facilities must be available to organisations tasked by parliament with ensuring the energy grid systems are balanced and can deliver secure, reliable energy in a cost effective manner.

“Fifth, the costs and subsidies to achieve decarbonisation must come from progressive general taxation including corporation tax, not via the current systems of adding costs to every household’s energy bills which disproportionately hits the lowest paid workers and those least able to pay.”

First expressions of interest by companies seeking to benefit from the wider OWGP programme can be made at the Global Offshore Wind conference in London this week, with a new website being launched to register for the scheme.

The new initiative has been hatched by OWGP as a key part of the recent industry-government sector deal which will see at least 30GW of offshore wind installed by 2030 – up from the current 8GW – and generating a third of the UK’s electricity.

It builds on plans announced last October designed to expand UK content in offshore wind farms from the current 48% to 60% by 2030. The OWGP strategy will be delivered by the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult which will provide support to supply chain companies to enable them to grow and increase their competitiveness.