A third of British electricity could be generated by offshore wind farms by 2030, the Government has said as it unveils a new deal with the industry.
Offshore wind currently provides around 7% of British power, but that could increase to more than 30% by the end of the next decade, providing 27,000 jobs in the sector.
It would mean that, for the first time in UK history, more electricity is generated by renewables than fossil fuels, with a predicted 70% of power coming from low-carbon sources by 2030, officials said.
It is hoped the green power “revolution” will be helped by a new deal between the Government and industry to develop the supply chain and boost global exports.
The deal will increase the sector’s target for the share of UK-based production for offshore wind projects to 60%, to ensure the £557 million pledged by the Government for future clean power auctions benefit local communities around the country.
The industry will invest £250 million in measures including making sure British companies are competitive and world-leaders in new innovation in areas such as robotics and floating wind and larger turbines.
A partnership between Government and industry will support smaller supply chain companies to export for the first time, to help boost global exports to areas including Europe, Japan, and the United States five-fold to £2.6 billion a year by 2030.
Alongside the deal, the Government will provide more than £4 million for British businesses to share expertise globally and open new markets through a programme to help countries such as Indonesia and Pakistan avoid coal power and develop their own offshore wind projects.
And there will be more efforts to reduce the cost of offshore wind projects, which have already seen costs halve in just two years, in the 2020s to help move to a subsidy-free system.
The Crown Estate will also be releasing new seabed land from 2019 for future offshore wind projects.
Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry said: “This new sector deal will drive a surge in the clean, green offshore wind revolution that is powering homes and businesses across the UK, bringing investment into coastal communities and ensuring we maintain our position as global leaders in this growing sector.
“By 2030 a third of our electricity will come from offshore wind, generating thousands of high-quality jobs across the UK, a strong UK supply chain and a five-fold increase in exports.”
Energy UK’s chief executive, Lawrence Slade, said: “Today’s sector deal, and continued investment from industry, will create a global offshore wind market set to be worth £30 billion a year by 2030 and further cement the UK’s position as a world-leader in offshore wind.
“The offshore wind industry has been a great success story for the UK, bringing thousands of skilled jobs and billions in investment while delivering clean energy at an ever-falling cost to customers.”
And industry-body RenewableUK said the deal was about creating opportunities for the people who would be part of the 27,000 workforce.
“We’re setting up a new body to develop the right skills for years to come, not only by offering apprenticeships, but also by helping experienced people from other parts of the energy sector, as well as the military, to make the change into offshore wind.
“We also want to ensure far more diversity in the industry, by reaching a target of at least 33% women employees by 2030, and by recruiting people from a wider variety of ethnic backgrounds”.
But Greenpeace said that renewables needed to be scaled up even more.
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: “The Government’s plans for a fleet of new nuclear reactors has collapsed. This leaves Britain with a big energy gap in the future. It means the Government’s latest offshore wind target of 30 gigawatts by 2030 is woefully inadequate.
“Renewable power now presents the best opportunity for cheaper, cleaner and faster decarbonisation.
“Wind and solar must be tripled between now and 2030, with offshore wind the future backbone of the UK’s energy system.”
Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “Offshore wind has a key role to play in achieving our ambitious energy targets and delivering a low-carbon energy system.
“Scotland has massive offshore wind potential with a large share of Europe’s offshore wind resources and the commitment that the sector deal represents from government, academia and industry will help ensure that our world-leading offshore wind sector develops successfully and sustainably.”