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Labour green energy offensive

Offshore wind
Energy, Transport & Infrastructure
offshore wind

In a significant couple of weeks for Wales, which included the appointment of Vaughan Gething as the new First Minister, as well as the football team's crucial Euro 2024 qualifier playoff final against Poland tonight, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was in the north of the nation to unveil (again) “gamechanging” new energy plans aimed at reducing reliance on foreign energy sources.

Speaking at the port of Holyhead with key members of the Welsh Government, the Labour leader vowed that a Labour government would increase investment in floating offshore wind farms as part of its attempts to “get Putin’s boot off our throat” and “power up communities across Britain”.

According to a recent government-backed task force, Wales holds the potential to become a leader in the development of the new technology, projected to unlock £43 billion GVA and create 30,000 jobs by 2050. The announcement also marks the first proposed significant investment by Great British Energy, the newly established state-owned company, under an incoming Labour government.

Following the latest round of funding allocations (meaning only one out of three viable floating offshore wind projects will be realised) fears have grown from energy executives regarding the current government's insufficient investment in the sector. Labour has accused the Conservatives of "squandering a golden opportunity" to advance the technology.

While Labour's goal of establishing 5GW of floating offshore wind capacity by 2030 aligns with the existing government target, a Labour aide hinted that the party intends to bolster the industry with greater financial support, effectively 'putting money where our mouth is”.

Unsurprisingly, the Conservatives have hit back, once again accusing the Opposition of pursuing decarbonisation targets that could push up energy costs for the taxpayer.

Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutinho said Starmer’s energy promise is a “race to the bottom that will put Britain’s energy security at risk” adding that “despite industry sounding the alarm, Labour are happy to send jobs abroad and sacrifice investment for the sake of ideology.”

Why are Labour pushing for floating offshore wind farms?

A relatively new technology, there are currently only two operational projects in the UK, both off the coast in Scotland at Peterhead and Aberdeen. Unlike traditional fixed offshore wind farms, floating farms are attractive as turbines can be placed further out at sea, where wind speeds may be greater. There is also a cost benefit as there is less reliance on large and expensive installation vessels.

Furthermore, by allowing the wind turbines to be installed farther offshore, floating wind farms in theory face less of the traditional resistance from local communities, since visual impact and noise issues are minimised.

Despite these advantages, there are practical challenges to overcome for further expansion. As noted above, there is currently a gap in industry investment, which Labour have set out to solve, and further policy adjustments are necessary to enable a more integrated approach to connecting all types of offshore wind to the GB power system.

In light of Sir Keir Starmer’s recent decision to reduce the £28 billion investment in green policies, there has been mounting pressure on the Leader of the Opposition to uphold commitments to renewable energy investment throughout the UK.

Although the party has refrained from disclosing the specific allocation of the proposed £8.3 billion GB Energy budget towards floating offshore wind investment, this week's announcement brings encouraging prospects for both the industry and the local community in Wales. Other renewable energy sectors and regions will be hopeful for similar government investment should the Labour Party come to power this year.