30,000 New Steel Fabrication Jobs Needed To Deliver 8,000 Offshore Wind Turbines, And Help UK Meet It’s 2050 Net Zero Target
But as things stand, without a Renewables Development Authority to develop UK capacity, these steel fabrication jobs are destined to be delivered in Asia, with workers and communities across the UK being left to pay for them, warns GMB Scotland.
Up to 30,000 new jobs are required in the UK steel fabrication sector to build the 300 giant offshore wind turbines each year, every year, to meet official UK net zero carbon emissions electricity from new capacity by 2050. These are the direct and indirect jobs building turbine jackets and foundations only. The jobs producing blades, turbines, nacelles and generators would be additional to this number. The delivery of these jobs to coastal communities across the UK are pivotal to the credibility and success of the UK Government’s “levelling-up” agenda.
The Climate Change Committee set a target for up to 125GW capacity wind power by 2050 which currently requires an additional 100GW to meet this. Based on specifications and costs of current wind farms in the pipeline this equates to more than 8,000 new offshore wind turbines. The costs of bringing this new capacity on stream would be near £250 billion (see link to the next UK offshore wind farm developments in the Notes to Editors section).
GMB Scotland members in the offshore wind industry supply chain are acutely aware of how far the UK lags way behind other countries in terms of technology and investment in facilities. The current capacity to undertake this work in the UK is woefully inadequate, and will not be realised without collaboration between Governments and the private sector. The new jobs estimates for when the UK steel fabrication industry is fully on stream, as set out in this release, are based on GMB members’ practical experience in the offshore wind industry supply chain.
The UK Government should now establish a Renewables Development Authority which will have responsibility for procuring private sector capacity to build new yards, and work with training bodies to develop the necessary skills base in our local economies. Without this targeted Government action, including conditions attached to the reform of the Contracts for Difference (CfD) subsidies and permits, the manufacture of the lion’s share of steel fabrication work for the UK’s offshore wind future will continue to be delivered across Asia, as evidenced by the last decade of offshore wind manufacture in Scotland.
The areas with existing steel fabrication skills and / or access to the sea that a Renewables Development Authority should evaluate and consider include: Clydeside, Western Isles, Dundee, Fife, Tyneside, Wearside, Teesside, Humberside, King's Lynn, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Felixstowe, Harwich, Medway, Portsmouth, Southampton, Weymouth, Plymouth, Falmouth, Appledore, Avonside, Milford Haven, Pembroke, Anglesey, Merseyside, Barrow, and Belfast.
GMB Scotland Secretary Gary Smith said:
“It is daunting to think that of all the facilities currently producing electricity in Britain today only Sizewell B and the hydro station network will be operating in 2050. Everything else will have been decommissioned or will need to be replaced with new zero carbon capacity that is yet to be built or brought on stream.
“It is a massive challenge but also a huge opportunity because a transformation on this scale in 30 years cannot be achieved by business as usual. It will require a national mobilisation across both public and private sectors and national, devolved and local government; a genuine industrial plan for the transition to a low carbon economy.
“In some parts of the industry, like nuclear, the construction capacity and supply chain already exists in the UK, but it needs significantly scaled-up. For wind power, unlike for North Sea oil and gas, we missed out on developing the last generation of steel fabrication capacity in the UK. These jobs were exported to the rest of the world, and GMB members in communities like Fife and Lewis have felt the impact of this failure.
“The capacity to produce the required number of offshore wind turbines we need simply does not exist in the UK. Subsidies and permits should be linked to operators using a UK supply change. In addition Government must set up a new public body, the Renewables Development Authority. This body should have authority to work with the operators to mobilise the necessary capacity in the coastal and industrial areas. A similar body performed the job successfully in Scotland on North Sea oil and gas.
“We also don’t currently have the steel fabrication capacity in the UK. However government controls the market for the electricity. It can set legally binding conditions for franchises to supply the market from a UK supply chain. The trade agreement with the EU has provisions for the “development of disadvantaged or deprived areas or regions.
“This replacement of nearly all the current facilities and scaling up of electricity capacity is going to be hugely expensive. The costs of an additional 100GW of wind power alone will be not far short of £250 billion, if costs are comparable with capacity in the pipeline and turbines duties are similar. These huge sums will have to be paid from household energy bills and taxation.
“The quid pro quo for collectively having to pay the huge costs of achieving net zero carbon emissions - and we do have to pay - is to level up economic activity in the green energy supply chain with well paid, skilled jobs located in forgotten coastal and industrial communities that badly need this boost. So we want to see bipartisan support for what Tesco’s Chairman John Allen called in his recent Covid Recovery Plan, “The Great British Supply Chain”, and one of its pillars should be the creation of a Renewables Development Authority.
“The vision is bold but absolutely achievable: 30,000 green jobs in steel fabrication supporting the next generation of offshore wind developments in UK waters, requiring 20 million tonnes of British steel, generating 100GW of clean power for British homes, and helping the country achieve it’s 2050 “net zero” targets.
“The private sector companies to develop the yards are there. Workers like our GMB members in the shipyards and engineering construction are there, and they have all the necessary skills and expertise to train a new generation of steel fabrication workers. And the labour force is there, with an estimated 771,000 young people not in education or training and employment. There are areas of the country crying out for new jobs to level up. A Renewables Development Authority should bring all these elements together.
“It’s a vital missing piece in the UK Government’s “10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution”, which promises big but as we know from the last decade alone, without a reform agenda of the subsidies and procurement practices, and an agency to oversee the delivery of this, this will amount to nothing more than political hot air, and the lion’s share of work from our own offshore wind sector will be destined for manufacture in Asia. This is unnecessary and politically unacceptable.
“It would be an act of gross hypocrisy for around 20 million tonnes of steel produced from high carbon emissions coal fired electricity and coking coal to be used for the manufacture of more than 8,000 wind turbines, then transported half way around the world on diesel burning barges, to power the UK’s drive to zero carbon. That’s not what a just transition looks like for workers and communities across the country, and it’s not what a green industrial revolution looks like either.
“We need to stop outsourcing our environmental and manufacturing responsibilities to the rest of the world. Let’s build our industrial future here.”
Contact: GMB Scotland Communications on 07976 447077 or email@example.com
Notes to editors:
Energy white paper: Powering our net zero future, published 14 December 2020: <<https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/energy-white-paper-powering-our-net-zero-future>>
UK Steel Key Statistics 2019: <<https://www.makeuk.org/insights/publications/uk-steel-key-statistics-guide-2019>>
Covid Recovery Commission:<<https://covidrecoverycommission.co.uk/covid-recovery-commission-sets-out-blueprint-for-a-national-prosperity-plan-to-boost-growth-and-living-standards-over-the-next-decade/>>
Climate Change Committee, The UK’s path to Net Zero: <<https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/The-Sixth-Carbon-Budget-The-UKs-path-to-Net-Zero.pdf>>
The Crown Estate, Offshore Wind Leasing Round 4 signals major vote of confidence in the UK’s green economy, 8 February 2021: <<https://www.thecrownestate.co.uk/en-gb/media-and-insights/news/2021-offshore-wind-leasing-round-4-signals-major-vote-of-confidence-in-the-uk-s-green-economy/>>