Last week we saw a number of projections showing the predicted growth of the UK's wind industry. Given the economic climate, you'd be forgiven for assuming the Government would want to emphasise the growth and job potential of one of the country's leading home-grown industries. So it surprises me that figures from both the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and National Grid failed to realise the industry's potential and risk underplaying the growth potential in wind energy between now and 2030.
Forgive me for putting on an anorak for the moment, but it's important that we get data right and be clear about what numbers tell us. Last week the Government published what it called a Draft Delivery Plan which contained scenarios for how much wind, nuclear, gas and other generation we might have in 2030. These figures contain mixed messages on wind energy. My worry is that DECC is backpedalling on its vision of 31 gigawatts (GW) installed by 2020 which it set out in its Renewable Energy Roadmap in 2011, reducing this to 28GW by 2020, and anything between 20 and 53GW in 2030.
Most worrying is that almost all DECC's scenarios are based on an assumption that the costs of offshore wind will not fall, even though industry and Government are working hard on a programme to cut costs by 30% by 2020. The Government once again appears undecided on the role renewables will play in our future energy mix. Meanwhile, National Grid envisaged wind capacity reaching between 17 and 26GW in 2020 and 34-57GW in 2030. "Wide-ranging" is the most charitable way to describe these scenarios - "non-committal" is another.
These figures massively underestimate what we, the industry, know we can achieve, as long as a supportive policy framework is put in place as soon as possible, including consistently positive messaging from all levels of Government. RenewableUK itself has worked with Government and industry to track delivery in offshore wind, so in response we have published Project Timelines analysis to show that offshore wind alone has the potential to expand to 18GW by 2020, in line with Government's original projections.
New Government energy statistics show that the amount of wind energy on the system increased by 32%. This continued growth make the UK wind industry an engine room for job creation in the UK - having already created over 12,000 jobs, we are on track to employ 76,000 people by 2021. And if the rest of Europe experiences similar growth, there is a strong chance that we can do more business with their wind energy companies, further developing our supply chain and boosting job creation.
A great recent example is a company like Aquind, and its plans to develop foundations for offshore turbines in North Tyneside. This project alone has the potential to create up to 700 jobs. However, as with all the other plans in the pipeline, policy certainty is necessary if it is to become a reality.
The abundance of wind in and around the UK can deliver billions of pounds of investment, new technology and new jobs. By havering here the Government risks undermining much-needed investor confidence; and lower projections could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Instead we all need to be clear that a big opportunity awaits. Government given confidence in offshore wind is like ginger to the dog; it's a catalyst to delivery, makes cost reduction and new employment the expected outcome and wind energy the smart bet for the UK. Government needs to use summer's Offshore Industrial Strategy to set out and underpin this opportunity. By being bold we will all reap the rewards.