Boris Johnson to Announce Major Expansion of U.K.’s Offshore Wind Capacity
By Thomas Penny and Jessica Shankleman (Bloomberg) — Boris Johnson will commit to boosting U.K. offshore wind power as part of his delayed plan for a “green industrial revolution” as he seeks to get his stalled domestic agenda back on course.
In a speech aimed at regaining a grip over the political agenda after months of negative headlines over his handling of the coronavirus, the prime minister will say renewable energy can help drive Britain’s economic regeneration. He will announce 160 million pounds ($208 million) for infrastructure at ports to support companies building turbines off the British coast.
“As Saudi Arabia is to oil, the U.K. is to wind — a place of almost limitless resource, but in the case of wind without the carbon emissions and without the damage to the environment,” Johnson will say, according to extracts of his speech released by his office in London. “This investment in offshore wind alone will help to create 60,000 jobs in this country — and help us to get to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”
Johnson is seeking ways to rebuild the Covid-ravaged U.K. economy and to tackle a surge in joblessness once government employment support falls away at the end of the month. Helping the environment is a key part of his agenda to drive growth and return to the agenda he set out before his decisive election victory last December. Since then, his ratings in polls have collapsed.
Tuesday’s remarks are a forestaste of a 10-point program for green industries the prime minister is planning for later this year. Those will include support for innovation and infrastructure, his office said, without giving a specific date for the announcement.
“We need to give people the chance to train for the new jobs that are being created every day,” he will say. Investment in green technologies “in the next 10 years will create hundreds of thousands if not millions of jobs.”
The broader package, due to be announced later in the year, will help build hydrogen as a fuel for heavy industry, spur carbon capture technology and a ban on the sale of petrol cars, according to two people familiar with Johnson’s thinking. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans are private.
The prime minister had been expected to give a green recovery speech in September, but the timetable slipped because of the pandemic, according to one of the people.
Britain aims to zero out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and the measures would aim to drive investment to reach that goal. Ministers have repeatedly touted the benefits of clean technologies to help the U.K. “build back better and build back greener.”
The speech also will:
- reaffirm an aim to generate 40 gigawatts of power from offshore wind by 2030, more than four times the current capacity
- endorse floating wind turbines
- pledge to double the support for renewable energy in the next year in an auction for contracts-for-difference, a mechanism used to ensure payments to power generators
The commitment to wind power marks a change in approach for Johnson, who as recently as 2013 said the U.K. would be better relying on energy production from shale gas and nuclear power plants.
“No one seriously believes that wind turbines are the answer to our power shortages,” Johnson wrote in an article for the Sun on Sunday newspaper that year. “Not when they seem to spend so much time motionless, or turning so slowly they wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding.”
© 2020 Bloomberg L.P
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