Wind of change is blowing hard

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BRITAIN’S wind power sector has been given a triple shot-in-the arm.

Political heavyweights have predicted a massively strong future for the industry at a time when Hartlepool is battling to win hundreds of jobs.

First Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg issued a rallying call in support of wind power, saying: “Low-carbon markets are the next frontier in the battle for global pre-eminence”.

Then the new Energy Secretary Ed Davey said: “Greening the economy isn’t just good for the planet – it’s good for the wallets, purses and pockets. My priorities are very simple: green jobs, green growth and getting the best deal for energy bill payers”.

And to add to the positivity, Energy Minister Charles Hendry was told by the Offshore Wind Developers’ Forum that UK firms could provide more than 50 per cent of the content of the country’s future wind farms.

They were replying to fears within the industry after more than 100 Conservative MPs wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to cut subsidies for the sector.

Campaign group Energi Coast, which is battling to give North-East firms a stronger say in the renewable energy sector, voiced its concern at the move.

Energi Coast members fear the Government is being pressurised into changing its support for the wind sector. Its members include JDR Cables, Heerema and Tata Steel in Hartlepool as well as TAG Energy Solutions, in Billingham.

Energi Coast chairman Alex Dawson, who is also chief executive of Billingham-based TAG Energy Solutions, said: “In our region alone, a group of 22 companies, who are part of the North-East’s renewables group Energi Coast, have already invested £400m in their renewable energy operations and employ 6,500.”

But Maria McCaffery, the chief executive of the trade group RenewableUK, said the announcements from Mr Clegg and Mr Davey were a “strong vote of confidence in the renewables sector.

“Those at the heart of the Coalition Government are standing shoulder to shoulder with the wind industry, because they’re well aware that we can deliver a secure supply of low-carbon energy to millions of homes, as well as creating tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs over this decade”.

All this comes at a time when Hartlepool is in a two-way fight with Leith, in Edinburgh, to become the location for Spanish firm Gamesa’s planned new UK plant to make wind turbines.

The deal could create 1,000 direct jobs as well as 800 supply chain posts.

Negotiations to persuade Gamesa to come to Hartlepool have gone on since last summer. A spokesman for the Madrid-based firm told the Hartlepool Mail: “At the moment, there are no changes. We are analysing both possibilities, Hartlepool and Leith.”