'This is not aspirational, renewables revolution is happening'
QWhat is the Government's view on the Humber's potential to be a global leader in renewable energy?
AThe thing I am keen to stress is that the Humber is a critical part of our energy infrastructure – not only with offshore wind but there are also biomass and carbon capture and storage opportunities on the Humber as well.
We think the Humber has an incredibly important contribution to make to the whole renewables future.
The east coast is extremely well positioned to form a strong manufacturing base, which is why I have been so keen to engage MPs, business and local council leaders to create an even better understanding of how we can best take advantage of that.
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QWhat is your vision of how the Humber's renewables industry will look in ten to 20 years' time, particularly in terms of number of jobs, the impact on the local economy, communities and wider area?
AI think one of the most exciting aspects of the whole renewables revolution, particularly given the need for a robust supply chain, is the opportunity it presents to those areas that have been struggling or have been in decline and the chance of a very bright and vibrant future – a high-tech future.
So if you look at the impact that will have on the Humber, there will certainly be new jobs coming through there.
In the offshore wind sector alone, we predict there will be 50,000 to 60,000 jobs created across the country and clearly, from what I am saying, you can see the Humber has a particularly strong appeal.
QHow crucial is the Humber region in helping the UK achieve its carbon reduction and renewable energy targets?
AIt will make a very important contribution. Indeed, by 2020 we need to get 15 per cent of all our energy from renewables, including 30 per cent of our electricity, and the Humber will have a real role to play in that, with the existing onshore wind-farms, offshore wind and biomass potential, which will put the area in a strong position for the technological revolution.
QHow important is establishing a strong, robust and extensive supply chain to forming a long-lasting renewables industry in the UK?
AWe don't just want to be where the facilities are located; we want to be where the jobs and manufacturing sector are located, so we want to be building the next generation of wind turbines and everything that goes with that.
QMany small businesses say cost-reduction and competition from overseas rivals are their biggest challenges to securing contracts in the renewables industry (particularly offshore wind) – what does the Government see as the major obstacles to future growth and work?
AOne of the reasons we are so keen to develop offshore wind is because what happens in the UK will determine what happens globally.
Our major task has been to bring down the price related to offshore wind developments, which is why we have set up a cost-reduction task force with the desire to bring prices down by 40 per cent over the course of the decade.
But there are also a lot of other factors that will help us bring down the price, which is why we are also working closely with the supply chain.
It is also important to look at skills, and we already have a very strong and attractive skills base – across the UK and on the Humber – so we are also looking at what more we can do to enhance the appeal of areas such as Hull with serious offshore wind investors both in and outside the UK.
QWhat can the Government do to help businesses (particularly SMEs) overcome these issues, in terms of investment, practical support and advice?
AThe Government has already provided support in the form of the £50 million investment in ports, which can be used linked into special industrial projects in the renewables sector.
There is also the £125 million Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative, which is aimed and supporting and growing supply chains.
We are also working with UK Trade and Investment, which has 96 offices around the world, which we have asked to help identify new investors.
This is also one of the major issues for Local Enterprise Partnerships to focus on and is one of the things the Humber partnership, with its renewables emphasis, has been set up to do – to find the right infrastructure to support SMEs and for example, to look at ways of helping them to access credit.
QHow will the Green investment Bank help SMEs?
AIt has already identified offshore wind as a core area of support with £3 billion in seed corn funding.
QHow important are events such as Renewing The Humber in preparing businesses for the renewables revolution and raising awareness of the opportunity?
AWe see all these events as being very important to raising the profile of the renewables industry and the Humber – whether it be for young people looking at careers and helping them understand the opportunities that exist, or for companies looking to invest.
It also sends out a strong message about the aspirations of the Humber, which has a proud industrial heritage but now has just as bright a future as it had in the past.
QWhat is being done, particularly in terms of skills and jobs, to ensure the renewables "boom" is not short-lived and the UK creates a long-term industry that is a global force?
AThe Local Enterprise Partnership is in the driving seat and needs to be taking charge of the skills agenda by working closely with colleges.
They need to make the case to encourage young people to take an interest in this sector.
There is going to be an enormous number of engineering jobs, so young people need to be encouraged to study those Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, so we have enough people to do those jobs.
So the focus will need to be on encouraging young people to take an interest in this kind of work and retraining older people to do it.
QWhat advice would the Government give to individuals wishing to forge a career in renewables, particularly offshore wind – are there any specific training routes that are being developed?
AGetting young people to study those Stem subjects is going to be key to this, so we need to create a degree of excitement of around this.
This is not just aspirational, the renewable revolution is happening.
The UK has more offshore wind developments than anywhere else in the world and is something we can become world leaders in.
It is good for our energy security; it is good because we can no longer afford to rely on our exhausted fossil fuel supplies and it is good for creating a low-carbon economy.
These jobs will offer young people a lifetime of good-quality, well-paid employment and the Humber is at the heart of it.
So we need young people to see the opportunity it presents and go on to study the right qualifications.