American engineering giant General Electric (GE) today announced plans to build an offshore wind turbine manufacturing plant in the UK, creating up to 2,000 jobs.
The company said it had not yet decided where to build the facility but that its plans would result in around £100m being invested in Britain, creating clean energy jobs at the new site as well as in the supply chain.
The construction of thousands of huge offshore turbines is a key part of government plans to meet its commitments to cut greenhouse gases, as well as ensure the continuity of energy supply over the next decade as nuclear and coal-fired stations reach the end of their life.
GE's plans are linked to an announcement in yesterday's budget of a £60m competition to help develop port facilities for the offshore wind industry. "This investment is tied to the successful deployment of the UK government's port development fund," a company statement said.
The company said the project will form part of a planned €340m (£305m) investment in Europe's wind energy industry over the next 10 years. In addition to the UK manufacturing site, it plans to build development centres in Norway, Sweden and Germany.
GE UK managing director, Magued Eldaief, said: "We believe offshore wind has a bright future here in the UK and are delighted that the government yesterday committed to further developing this important sector. These GE investments will position us to help develop Europe's vast, untapped offshore wind resources."
Business secretary Lord Mandelson, said: "This is great news from GE, a vote of confidence in UK low-carbon manufacturing which should create a huge number of jobs." The climate and energy secretary, Ed Miliband, said: "We're creating the right conditions and incentives to maximise the potential of our wind resource."
Greenpeace policy director, Doug Parr, said: "Clean technology is set to be the growth industry of the 21st century, and this announcement shows that, with the right incentives from government, Britain could be in pole position to benefit.
Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust, said: "GE's announcement turns the vision of the UK as an industrial hub for the offshore wind industry into a reality. It provides proof that offshore wind presents a huge economic opportunity for the UK. Analysis from the Carbon Trust shows that with continued commitment from industry and government to work together, the offshore wind industry could be employing 70,000 people in the UK by 2020, creating a net economic benefit of £65bn for the country over the next 40 years."
GE employs 19,000 people in the UK in more than 60 locations, including Aberdeen, Falmouth, Cardiff and Cambridge. UK revenues for GE have grown from £900m in 2000 to £8.5bn in 2008.