‘A poverty of ambition’

PM’s wind farm pledge ‘only part of the picture’ for the UK’s future energy needs, says Unite

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Prime minister Boris Johnson’s pledge that every UK home will be powered by electricity from offshore wind farms by 2030 revealed ‘a poverty of ambition’, compared with the vast sums that France and Germany were investing in this sector.

Unite said today (October 6) that the prime minister’s promise at the virtual Conservative party conference was a welcome late-conversion to wind farms, but questioned whether there was an over-reliance on wind, when a future energy policy should include a ‘mix’ of supply, including low-carbon nuclear.

“We welcome the prime minister’s conversion to offshore wind farms, but what it reveals is the poverty of ambition compared with France and Germany,” commented Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail.

“The spending proposed by Boris Johnson pales into significance with the vast sums that our main European competitors have invested in this sector.

“The commitment for 60 per cent of the turbines to be manufactured in the UK only highlights that much more could have been done to invest in this sector and the jobs boost that would have been created. This was highlighted by the closure of Vestas on the Isle of Wight a decade ago.

“The Johnson rhetoric will turn out to be a mirage without a strong economy, retention of skilled jobs and investment in apprenticeships – and this means that chancellor Rishi Sunak needs to continue to do much more to protect employment as we go through the coronavirus pandemic,” she concluded.

‘Only a partial picture’

“What we are waiting for is the government’s much-delayed energy White Paper which will show how the UK reaches its pledge of net-zero carbon emissions across all forms of energy by 2050,” said Unite national officer for energy Peter McIntosh said.

“This will include low carbon nuclear and renewables, such as wind power. What the prime minister spoke about today is only a partial picture of what needs to be done to keep the lights on for industry, business and the consumer,” McIntosh added.

‘Hollow words’

And the windfarm pledge that every UK home will be powered by electricity from offshore windfarms by 2030 and that £160m will be spent on building more wind turbines  was described as ‘hollow words’ under the current UK government.

“The announcement by the prime minister that the UK will commit to 60 per cent of turbines to be manufactured domestically is rehashed rhetoric” commented Unite Scottish secretary, Pat Rafferty.

“The UK government has repeatedly failed to act on recommendations for years and belatedly adopting this target only serves to highlight their years of inaction and abandonment of the domestic supply chain.

‘Sector on life support’

“The onshore and offshore wind sector in Scotland is on life support,” continued Rafferty.

“We have the BiFab yards and CS Wind in Campbeltown sitting idle. The prime minister’s pledge are hollow words for these communities. SSE is awarding work everywhere but Scotland. EDF awarding scraps from the table. CS Wind’s Korean owners have mothballed its factory.

“Talk is cheap. We need action and we need that right now. We urgently need the contracts for difference scheme totally reformed to legally ensure that domestic based firms are guaranteed work from the billions of pounds being poured into the on and offshore wind sector. The reality is that the people of Fife, Lewis and Argyll and Bute haven’t seen a penny of it.”

By Shaun Noble and Andrew Brady

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