Martin Vickers: The Humber is full of opportunity for offshore and renewable energy
The Humber is setting its stall out as the global ‘go to’ destination for offshore and renewable energy, says Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers
The Humber has come a long way from being the gateway for fossil fuels to its current status as a world leader in the offshore and renewable energy sector. With easy access to wind turbines located in the North Sea, the Humber is ideally positioned to facilitate the UK’s offshore wind sector. Within 12 hours’ steaming time, the Humber provides access to 80% of all North Sea offshore wind farms and 60% of the entire renewable energy market for Europe.
The country’s largest enterprise zone was established to develop the Humber as the UK’s ‘energy estuary.’ The potential of the Humber and the opportunities available has led to major investment coming from companies including Siemens, Dong, Centrica and E.ON. In December last year, Siemens opened its £300m wind turbine blade manufacturing facility in Hull, something that the coalition government had worked long and hard to bring to the Humber. This facility, which will create around 1,000 new jobs, will be supplying turbine blades for offshore wind farm projects not only in the Humber area, but also throughout the UK. These projects could potentially start generating enough electricity to power over 3 million homes and businesses.
In my constituency, Able UK Ltd has planning permission for the AMEP (Able Marine Energy Park) project. Situated close to Immingham – by tonnage the country’s largest port – if brought to fruition AMEP has great potential for the renewable energy sector and would provide a major boost to the local economy. The site is ideally placed on the widest part of the Humber estuary with easy access to the open seas along with a rail link to the British Steel plant in Scunthorpe.
The Humber’s excellence in renewable energy has now gained the attention of the rest of the world. A delegation of US politicians has visited with the aim of gathering evidence on the socio-economic impact of the offshore wind industry. The delegation visited Siemens, Greenport, the University of Hull, Humber UTC, CATCH, Dong Energy and the E.ON Humber Gateway.
The government recognises the potential of the Humber in the renewable energy revolution. Theresa May recently announced a further £28m local growth fund investment to boost the ‘energy estuary.’ Both the prime minister and the business and energy secretary Greg Clark have endorsed the Humber as a key part of the industrial strategy. Moreover, the Humber will play a significant part in the government’s northern powerhouse initiative.
In January, I sponsored a Westminster reception on behalf of the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to celebrate £1bn of private sector investment to the Humber. The event brought together current and potential investors with local government representatives and ministers including Greg Clark, his minister of state Nick Hurd, and northern powerhouse minister Andrew Percy. The reception was a great opportunity to raise awareness of the Humber and to let businesses know of the amazing potential of the area.
However, this success also brings challenges. I and other Humber MPs have sought to widen the opportunities for our young people by establishing a National College for Wind Energy in the area – an initiative that was first put forward by the coalition government. The aim of this college would be to ensure that the local workforce meets the demands of the offshore renewables sector. We must train local people to do jobs currently carried out by workers from Denmark, Germany and elsewhere. However, it’s worth noting that there are already some excellent training facilities in the local area: the Grimsby Institute, the training facility at HCF CATCH and the new Humber University Technical College in Scunthorpe.
The Humber is full of huge potential and opportunities, and it’ll be exciting to see how the renewable energy revolution will progress.
Martin Vickers is Conservative MP for Cleethorpes