A revolution in green energy will boost the North East economy by £3bn and create up to 30,000 manufacturing jobs over the coming decade, a top Government minister predicted last night.
Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks said the region was ready to “seize the moment” offered by a massive expansion of renewable energy, with thousands of new wind turbines set to be built on land out to sea around Britain by 2020.
He acknowledged concerns about the credit crunch but praised the North East’s manufacturing industry ahead of meeting local firms at Gateshead’s Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art today to discuss the opportunities offered by the green energy revolution, designed to cut harmful emissions.
And he will visit the New and Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC), in Blyth, and officially unveil the building and equipment where Californian company Clipper Windpower will develop the world’s largest wind turbine that will be almost 10 times taller than the Angel of the North.
“There is kind of myth in Britain, maybe particularly down here in the South, that somehow Britain is no longer a manufacturing power whereas we are actually the sixth largest manufacturing industry in the world.
“There are 5,000 manufacturing businesses in the North East alone, which employ 200,000 people in the region which is about 20% of the region’s workforce,” said Mr Wicks.
He said manufacturing was “alive and well and kicking” in the region and well placed with its history to make the most of the expansion of renewable energy, which could include solar and wave power.
The Government has set ambitious targets of 15% of all energy coming from renewable sources by 2020, which will require a tenfold increase in such production.
Mr Wicks said: “Manufacturing is not history. It is the present and the future in the North East. This new era of manufacturing new technologies that will help us tackle climate change is there for the North East to seize the moment and I think it will.”
The offshore wind market alone could generate £3bn for the North East economy and between 15,000 and 30,000 jobs by 2020, said the Energy Minister.
His predictions come after the Government agency Crown Estate, owner of the seabed around Britain, last month revealed 11 sites have been earmarked for new offshore wind farms, the largest of which will be off the North East coast.
Mr Wicks added: “For reasons of global warming, for reasons of energy security, but also for reasons of new industrial opportunities we have really got to seize the challenge of developing more renewable energy in this country.”
The Energy Minister said more wind turbines would be built on land – alongside offshore sites. But he insisted the Government was “not gung-ho” on the issue and stressed the need to follow proper planning procedures.
Householders and local communities could get “incentives” to put small wind turbines on homes or villages, added Mr Wicks who is in the process of putting one on his property.
He also said the development of new nuclear power stations, under energy plans, would be an opportunity for the region’s business.
by Liz Hands
21 July 2008
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