A wind farm only an hour’s drive from a Welsh steel plant hit by the latest round of Tata job cuts has been built from imported steel from China – a revelation that has sparked controversy amidst the ongoing steel industry crisis.
Contractors building the Pen y Cymoedd Wind Energy Project admitted that despite the close vicinity of the Port Talbot steel plant, material for its 76 wind turbines has been delivered from as far away as China.
Managers from energy firm Vattenfall, which operates the plant, as well as Siemens, who had provided materials and expertise during construction, said they were unable to use steel from the nearby Port Talbot Tata Steel plant, as it does not make the right type. Last week, Tata Steel announced it will cut 750 jobs in Port Talbot together with further 300 in Llanwern.
“It is fair to assume that, given the industry trade, Chinese steel is currently the cheapest in the market. It is more than likely Chinese steel being used,” a spokesman for Siemens told the South Wales Evening Post.
“One of our procurement experts believes that Tata didn't produce the right kind of steel for fabrication of the towers. It's probable that anyone appointed would have had to go abroad to source it."
Imports of cheap steel from China have been blamed for the widespread crisis that UK steelmakers have been grappling with for years.
"I've spoken with contacts in the industry and it would appear true the plant there does not make the right kind of steel for the turbines,” said Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP for Aberavon.
"However, it is outrageous that it hasn't even come from the UK. This is another example of the UK government's abject failure in helping the steel industry. It really has not done enough.”
According to Kinnock, the UK government should consider energy cost compensations for energy-intensive industries and ensure that 10 per cent of tax-payer funded projects needing steel use metal made in Britain.
"If you change public procurement in the public sector then it will have a knock on effect to the private sector too," Kinnock said.
"We are in the position we are in today because not enough has been done to support the industry in the past.”
Kinnock previously suggested that the Welsh steel sector could be saved if it is employed to produce steel for the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project. The government granted planning permission for the innovative £1bn power plant last year but has not elaborated yet on how much public support the scheme could expect to receive.