Ministers have pledged £66m for offshore wind to improve the supply chain, boost innovation and bring new products to market.
The investment is part of a new offshore wind strategy announced by the government today, which came at the same time as industry body RenewableUK revealed that the UK's total onshore and offshore wind capacity had passed 10GW, providing enough power for the equivalent of five and a half million homes.
The government hopes the funding will help the industry contribute £7bn to the economy and create 30,000 jobs by 2020, but the strategy also includes the creation of an organisation to attract inward investment to the UK, and proposals to require major developers applying for subsidies to draw up a plan on how they will boost the supply chain.
The UK currently has more offshore wind power than the rest of the world combined, and the strategy aims to expand the supply chain so more of the manufacturing is done in the UK, creating jobs and growth.
The plans were announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Energy Secretary Ed Davey during a visit to Grimsby to formally open Centrica's £1bn Lincs offshore wind farm – able to produce enough electricity to meet the needs of 200,000 homes, equivalent to two-thirds of the homes in Lincolnshire.
“This document is a blueprint for green-collar job creation which, as long as its recommendations are fully implemented, will ensure that Britain reaps the once-in-a-lifetime benefits offered by our world-leading offshore wind sector,” RenewableUK’s chief executive Maria McCaffery said.
“The UK’s wind industry is celebrating a major milestone today; we now have more than 10GW of wind energy installed onshore and offshore, enough to power five and a half million homes.
“Although this is a significant achievement, we must maintain momentum to reach our full potential, with wind playing an increasingly significant role in our energy mix, thereby reducing our dependence on expensive and environmentally-damaging fossil fuels.”
The government investment includes £20m from the regional growth fund for a new manufacturing advisory service to help the UK supply chain become more competitive.
A further £46m will come from the Technology Strategy Board over five years to link up innovation between government, industry and academics, and help companies bring new products to market.
Rhian Kelly, CBI director for Business Environment, said: “The UK has one of the most ambitious forward programmes for offshore wind in the world and this strategy highlights the need to strengthen domestic supply chains to capture as much value from this as possible.
“Further detail is now needed around the implementation of the Energy Bill to complement the strategy and unlock the big investments in this sector that will support UK jobs and growth.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said yesterday that Britain must "put the foot down on the accelerator" in developing renewable energy.
Today he reaffirmed that message, saying: "The race is now on to lead the world in clean, green energy. As an island nation and with our weather, the UK is ideally placed to make the most of offshore wind energy – you could say it was a technology designed for us.
"This strategy will help keep Britain as the world leader in one of the most important industries of the 21st century. If we make the most of offshore wind's potential in the UK, it can provide a big proportion of the energy that lights our homes and powers our economy."
The government-backed Green Investment Bank also plans to invest a significant proportion of its £3.8bn capital in offshore wind, teaming up with investors to back projects.
Greenpeace UK's chief scientist Doug Parr, said: "It's good to see the government thinking big on offshore wind – a technology that is key to cutting dangerous carbon emissions from our energy sector and helping our economy out of the doldrums."
But he warned that the government's decision not to set a target to slash emissions from the power sector by 2030, which would send a strong signal to investors about low-carbon power, undermined the backing for renewables.
"The failure to set a 2030 target to decarbonise the UK's electricity generation sends a contradictory message to businesses, raising questions over how serious ministers really are about backing wind power.
"It's time for the government to start speaking with one voice on an issue that is crucial to Britain's energy future."