WIND

Vive la offshore!

ADAM BARBER

January 13, 2012

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This week has seen EDF, Iberdrola and GDF submit proposals to meet with the France’s plans for 3GW of offshore wind.

Good news for the industry, although it’s important to put this 3GW into perspective alongside other European targets, and ascertain whether this will mark the start of further investment in French offshore.

Compared to the UK, Germany and Denmark, France’s offshore ambitions are relatively small scale. The UK is looking to secure 18GW of offshore wind, with Germany standing at 10GW – although French climate targets will mean that a total of 6GW of offshore wind will have to be deployed by 2020.

Long seen as a ‘nuclear’ country – and let’s be honest if one of France’s reactors ‘lets go’ Germany may as well have had the plant on domestic soil – the gradual move to renewables has as much to do with climate targets as it does about jobs and employment in the economically fragile Eurozone.

Announcements detailing the proposals by both EDF and Iberdrola highlighted the employment opportunities available, with the EDF proposal claiming up to 7500 jobs could be created in total. Both consortia will use French turbine makers – Alstom and Areva, respectively – to support their projects.

That’s not quite the end of the story though, as the German Machine Tool Builders Association has voiced concerns that proposals that favoured domestic manufacturers would be selected. This would of course leave Siemens backed GDF bid outside in the cold.

It’s a bit rich though, isn’t it? Offshore wind energy investments have the joint parentage of renewable targets and economic investment at the domestic level.

Indeed, in the UK it has been touted as one of the key aims, with colleges teaching new courses, new jobs in economically deprived areas and new factories for supply chain firms. The only argument you could make is that in the UK is hasn’t been done that well, with up to 80% of project spend going to overseas businesses – dare we whisper, predominantly German ones?

In all likelihood, the French will flick a cheerful Gallic ‘v’ sign at any protestations made that they may be favouring domestic manufacturers. Which, as long as the wind industry doesn’t descend into a closed oligopoly for the big players, seems fair enough. If it takes a bit of local sourcing to help rebuild the Eurozone economies and hit green energy targets, then so be it.

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