Time is right for windfarm investment, says minister
THE political landscape is now right for confidence in offshore windfarm investment, according to Business Minister Michael Fallon and Humber Local Enterprise Partnership chairman Lord Haskins.
The pair shared the same stage in northern Lincolnshire last week for the launch of the £30 million Growing The Humber fund.
It has been well documented that this region could see thousands of jobs created in the coming years, with scores of careers already now focused on the operations and maintenance element as farms close to the Lincolnshire coast, built with imported parts, are operational.
Now as the momentum builds for the larger projects in deeper water, the desire to host manufacturing in the UK, build supply chain and ensure Britain's benefits are not just energy security, are clear.
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Siemens has been holding out for the long-term economic conditions to be favourable before anchoring itself to the north bank, and behind the "gateway" that Mr Fallon described Grimsby as, sits the Able Marine Energy Park at North Killingholme – a huge site with enterprise zone status looking to develop the last deep-water frontage of the river and take advantage of a huge landbank earmarked for economic development.
The minister said: "There hasn't been significant certainty and clarity over this country's energy policy for some time.
"We have had a long moratorium on nuclear power from governments of both parties, and they hesitated on their commitment to offshore wind and so on.
"I think we are getting that clarity now. We have seen the Energy Bill being published and that being put into Parliament.
"Potential investors are reassured now. The financial framework that underpins this, the longer-term certainty they need if they are to invest in the more expensive side of it, particularly offshore, is there.
"I accept it has taken time to get this clarity and certainty, but it is now there.
"The legislation is now there. We are engaging with very large companies, particularly those from abroad, who want to come here. Now is the time for supply chains to invest."
One third of the Growing The Humber pot – £10 million – has been ring-fenced for the south bank renewables industry supply chain, aiding infrastructure projects and other elements to make the new industry's arrival as smooth as possible.
Lord Haskins said: "There was a period last year when there was a degree of uncertainty. But in the past two or three months, in my conversations with potential investors they seem pretty reassured that energy policy is significantly robust to lead them to make very long term commitments out in the North Sea.
"We keep our fingers crossed, but that particular concern has been alleviated."
A decision on development consent is imminent for Able's proposal, with the Planning Inspectorate working to a late February deadline for a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Transport, which in turn would then have a further three months to consider.