Nick Clegg launched this latest plank of the Liberal Democrats' economic stimulus and job creation package visiting a former shipyard in Newcastle. The proposals would enable firms to manufacture off-shore wind turbines in the UK, instead of seeing them built abroad due to out-of-date facilities.
Current plans to expand wind farms in the North and Irish seas could see every one of the 6,400 turbines needed brought in from abroad, as there are currently no turbine manufacturers in the UK.
British ports are ideally located to host turbine manufacturers due to their proximity to the off-shore wind farms; however, they are currently unable to invest due to the lack of appropriate docks with suitable space.
The proposals to invest in physical infrastructure to support a greener economy also include a pledge to invest £100million in training and testing facilities, including at universities with specialist engineering research facilities such as Loughborough, Durham and Newcastle.
Commenting, Nick Clegg said:
"We need to make sure we come out of this recession with a rebalanced and green economy.
"Our plans would act as a huge boost for Britain's budding wind industry and create nearly 60,000 jobs in many shipyard cities where unemployment is a huge problem.
"New off-shore turbines, with blades the size of the London Eye, need to be built and launched from modern docks, so we need to upgrade our shipyards to take advantage of this massive opportunity.
"Just imagine the docks and shipyards along the coastline of Britain coming to life and leading the world in this new technology.
"Expanding off-shore wind will create jobs but unless we act now, these jobs won't be British jobs. It's a scandal that 90% of the £1.75bn contract for a wind farm off the coast of Kent is going to foreign contractors, with the turbines being manufactured in Germany.
"Investing in infrastructure for a new green economy not only helps create jobs now but will allow Britain to take its place at the cutting edge of this growing industrial sector for the future.
"Britain clearly has the manufacturing and engineering expertise to lead the world in this green technology but government must play its part in supporting this."
In response to this announcement, John Sauven Greenpeace Executive Director said:
"This is the kind of practical vision that will bring Britain huge benefits.
"Using shipyards to launch a fleet of offshore turbines could make Britain an international powerhouse in wind power, and create thousands of jobs.
"But if we don't realise the huge potential of renewable energy in the UK, then we risk being left behind by other European countries."
The Policy in brief
The Liberal Democrats will renovate and adapt facilities in seven North and Irish Sea ports so they can be used to build the giant turbines needed for off-shore wind energy. This will be a huge boost for Britain's budding wind industry and create 57,000 jobs in many shipyard cities where unemployment is a huge problem.
This plan forms part of the Liberal Democrats' economic stimulus and job creation package. In the first year of a Liberal Democrat government, over £3.6bn of spending will be redirected to create jobs and build up Britain's infrastructure. In the following years this money will be redirected to other Liberal Democrat spending priorities and reducing the structural deficit.
Why is it necessary
Energy from wind must meet a much larger proportion of Britain's energy needs if we are to cut carbon emissions and our reliance on fuel imported from abroad. But there's a problem: there is hardly anywhere in Britain suitable to build the giant turbines needed. That holds back our industry and also the much-needed expansion of wind energy.
Liberal Democrats are committed to increasing the proportion of our electricity that comes from renewables to 40% by 2020. The majority of that electricity will have to come from off-shore wind - so we need to build at least 6,400 offshore wind turbines, 2.5 a day.
The technology we need is ready and the consortiums who have won the right to build offshore wind farms in the North and Irish Seas are now looking for manufacturers to build the turbines. If action is not taken now all the manufacturing jobs that these orders could create will go abroad where there are already the facilities to build huge wind turbines. Only if existing port facilities close to the off-shore wind farms of the North and Irish Seas are converted will the turbines be built here and the jobs created here too.
Renovating ports: The Liberal Democrats will invest £400million in refurbishing ports in the North of England and Scotland so they can manufacture offshore wind turbines. They will be upgraded so they are suitable for construction and testing facilities and are of a reasonable depth for the large boats used to transport the blades and towers. All port authorities with direct access to the North and Irish seas, the crucial areas for offshore wind development, will be invited to bid to be part of the scheme.
For example, ports in the North of England around Liverpool, Newcastle, Hull, Middlesbrough and ports in Scotland around Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and Glasgow will all be eligible for funding. Based on the cost of the recent renovation of Great Yarmouth, it is estimated that £400million will be enough for the renovation of seven ports.
The Liberal Democrats will also invest £100million through the Renewables and Energy Efficiency Delivery Authority (an agency we will establish, modelled on the Olympics Delivery Authority) who will invest in training and testing facilities, including at universities which specialise in this kind of engineering research such as Loughborough, Durham and Newcastle. In Government, the Liberal Democrat would work with the education sector and industry to ensure we have the skilled workforce to support new world class facilities.
Jobs: This investment will create 12,000 jobs in port development and facilitate a further 45,000 new jobs in the manufacturing, construction and supply chain of offshore wind energy within the UK.
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