The offshore wind industry could contribute as much as £35bn (€42bn) to UK GDP and account for 20-50% of the country’s electricity generating capacity by 2050, according to a report from a leading voice within UK manufacturing, the EEF.
But the financial value of offshore wind by the same date could be as little as £7bn (€8.4bn) if the UK fails to increase funding for research and development and make inroads in cost reduction, concludes the EEF report, Tech for Growth: Delivering green growth through technology.
The EEF warns that there are significant obstacles standing in the way of maximising offshore wind’s value and capacity, not least the “lack of a clear vision for a low-carbon economy”.
The wind industry is a clear example of how record-breaking generation capacity does not necessarily translate into domestic manufacturing jobs. The UK is home to the world’s largest offshore wind operational fleet, at 2.9GW, but lags behind Denmark, Germany and, soon, France as a home to offshore wind manufacturing production.
The UK government should commit to match the average across OECD countries for energy and environmental R&D funding, argues the EEF. In 2010, the UK allocated just 1.04% of its R&D budget to energy-related projects and 2.67% to environment-related research, compared with an OECD average of 3.75%.
Another technology earmarked by the EEF for priority is grid-scale energy storage, one of a group of “potential game-changer” technologies that are rapidly evolving, but not yet competitive. It could resolve many of the difficulties associated with variability in offshore wind generation, the report states.