UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who faces a tough re-election battle in next month’s parliamentary vote, hopes his devotion to clean energy will put the wind at his back.
Brown has reaped the benefits of his long courtship of wind turbine manufacturers in recent weeks as one after the other the large international companies have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in new investments that will create thousands of jobs and make the UK a leader in wind energy.
The government’s budget last month included 60 million pounds for port improvements that spurred two of the biggest turbine makers, General Electric (NYSE:GE) of the U.S. and Siemens (SI) of Germany, to announce plans for new plants to build offshore wind turbines. The companies pledged to spend $148 million and $123 million, respectively, on the new facilities.
In February, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (OTCPK:MHVYF) likewise pledged some $150 million to construct new turbine facilities. In addition, Clipper Windpower (OTC:CRPWF) said it would build the biggest turbine blades in the world in Newcastle.
The UK recently granted leases for up to 32 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity, and it expects 100 billion pounds ($150 billion) to be invested in the sector over the next 10 years. The projects would require as many as 6,400 turbines, according to one estimate.
Another provision in the March budget presented by Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling was a 2-billion-pound green investment bank to promote low-carbon energy.
It was the closure last year of the UK’s sole turbine plant by Vestas (OTCPK:VWDRY) of Denmark that galvanized the Brown government into action. Now, as the Labour Party is in the midst of a tough campaign, it is hoping that the prospect of new jobs and clean energy will win votes.
While the UK itself is ideally situated for offshore wind development, the government hopes manufacturers will capture a big chunk of the European market as well.
The European Wind Energy Association has forecast that the offshore wind industry could grow by as much as 70% in 2010. The offshore wind energy projects currently being developed could produce some 10% of the European Union’s electricity requirement.
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