UK’s wind farms are helping emissions but not the economy, say business leaders

Business leaders have raised concerns that the UK’s fast growth in offshore wind is not being matched with benefits to the economy.

The port of Blyth in Northumberland was once the biggest exporter of coal in Europe but has transformed itself into a leading hub for offshore energy, and most of its work is with offshore wind.

Its chief executive told Sky News the UK could get to net-zero emissions – but with the economy missing out.

"It’s a big issue," Martin Lawlor said.

"We could have largely zero carbon electricity but most of the jobs remain abroad."

With the number of wind farms growing fast, Mr Lawlor said developers need to be held to account over their supply chain plans.

"The vast majority of all wind turbine components are built abroad – that’s from the top of the turbine to subsea – but at the same time we have the largest installed capacity in the world so there’s a disconnect there," he said.

"So, in theory, why haven’t we got the largest percentage of wind turbine components built in this country as well?

"I think we were slow to pick up on the issue. We’re in the ‘Premier League’ in terms of offshore wind installed capacity [but] we’re currently probably non-league in terms of benefits to the economy."

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But it’s not just manufacturing that needs government support.

The port of Blyth saw the arrival of the world’s longest off-shore wind blade, which was brought to the UK for testing but made in France.

It’s currently being monitored to see how it responds to winds of up to 180mph by ORE Catapult in Blyth, which runs the biggest blade test facility in the world.

The director of the test facility, Tony Quinn, said that at 107 metres it has nearly outgrown the hangar.

The prime minister visited the facility in December last year.

Mr Quinn said: "What I’ve tried to emphasise to the prime minister was that the growth in this technology has been so rapid that we’re at capacity in more ways than one.

"Currently we’re reaching the extent of our capability in terms of blade length. And if we’re going to keep the UK at the cutting edge of technology then we need to continually invest in research infrastructure."

Workers like 26-year-old Matthew Eltringham are the epitome of how both the economy and the environment can benefit from the road to net-zero.

He was an apprentice technician and is now a fully qualified engineer working at the test facility.

Born in Blyth and made in the green revolution, the new dad says the recent arrival of his daughter has brought home to him the importance of tackling climate change.

Talking about his job, he said: "It’s something that will not only benefit us personally, but the world as a whole."

Sky News broadcasts the first daily prime time news show dedicated to climate change.

Hosted by Anna Jones, The Daily Climate Show is following Sky News correspondents as they investigate how global warming is changing our landscape and how we all live our lives.

The show will also highlight solutions to the crisis and show how small changes can make a big difference.

Watch on Sky News at 6.30pm and 9.30pm, or online and via the Sky News app.

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