The East of England is on the verge of a major breakthrough in its battle to secure a large slice of the offshore windpower market, according to James Gray, inward investment director for the East of England Energy Zone (EEEZ).
“I think 2013 was a time of uncertainty and drift in the sector but 2014 could well be the key year - and I believe we are going to make it,” said Gray.
“I'm hearing negative vibes from some competing energy business areas in the UK and Europe but there is much to be positive about in our region. The industry's centre of gravity is moving towards us.”
He said a string of factors were generating the optimism:
• The successful completion of major offshore windfarms like Greater Gabbard and Sheringham Shoal off the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts
• Statoil's confirmation that Great Yarmouth port will be the base for its operations and maintenance (O&M) work on Dudgeon windfarm off Norfolk.
• Galloper Offshore Wind Farm's agreement to locate its O&M base at Lowestoft, which already has the same the role for the Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm
• Experienced energy company DONG stepping in to take over the Race Bank project off North Norfolk from Centrica
• Three ports – Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Wells - which already have a successful track record of supporting the development of offshore wind and gas projects.
• Yarmouth and Lowestoft are also the closest deep-water ports to the planned EAOW windfarm, a 7200 MW, 1200 turbine project dwarfing anything which has gone before and where there will be key decisions in 2014
• The region's energy supply chain boast 50 years of experience in offshore oil & gas and is rapidly becoming a leader in offshore wind with skills dating back to Scroby Sands windfarm off Great Yarmouth in 2004, one of the first commercial sites to be operational in the UK
• The UK Government’s recognition of the potential with Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft being designated a Centre for Offshore Renewable Engineering and the potential for Assisted Area Status which will allow access to key sources of funds for investors.
• Enterprise Zone status for 121 hectares of prime land near its ports with commercial premises and quayside infrastructure also available.
Gray said: “I have no doubt we will see more consolidation in the market but we are also seeing most leading players in the industry take another look at the East of England because our geography, experience and track record is unequalled. Nothing like this is happening in anyone else's backyard.
“With our established assets and advantages and the EEEZ's unique public/private partnership offering a focused warm welcome for incoming business, I believe the region is powerfully placed for a massive role in the future energy industry.
"We've been involved in all windfarms off this part of the coast and have experience far beyond that. Our supply chain is picking up significant contracts, there is much prospective development and we are ready and able to go forward.”
• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: James Gray, inward investment director for the East of England Energy Zone