The Great South West on clean energy opportunities to unlock thousands of jobs

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The South West is involved in projects such as Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, floating offshore renewables, plus an array of array geothermal, hydrogen and other green fuels.

The South West has transformed in recent years, leading the way in energy generation.

Speaking with the Great South West, BusinessLive, has learnt more of how the opportunities and skilled workforce in the region is playing a leading role in powering up Britain, unlocking thousands of job opportunities and securing billions of pounds of investment.

The partnership was formed believing in the region’s marine, energy, environmental, technological and agricultural strengths as a ‘major contributor’ to the economy alongside powerhouses such as Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine.

With projects such as Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, floating offshore renewables, plus an array of geothermal, hydrogen and other green fuels, across the region from Dorset to the Isles of Scilly, the South West is set to be a power house on clean energy, leading innovation in Britain’s ambitions to become net zero by 2050.

Beyond creating jobs directly linked to energy initiatives, the Great South West believes investment will stimulate ancillary sectors such as manufacturing, supply chains and increased prosperity throughout the region.

Karl Tucker, chair of the Great South West, said: “We are on the cusp of an extraordinary journey. Alongside delivering the country’s net zero ambitions, we are generating jobs for local people and attracting investment into our economy. Seizing these opportunities will be vital to fostering growth, innovation, and prosperity for our communities and businesses.”

Hinkley Point C is the first new nuclear power station to be built in the UK in over 20 years and represents one of Europe’s largest infrastructure projects. The construction is currently forecast to create up to 25,000 employment opportunities and train over 1,000 apprentices. There has already been a 28% increase in employment in local areas. Over £5bn has been spent on South West companies during the construction, and local companies will continue to be key to delivering an expected £50bn in new build, decommissioning and defence contracts over the next 20 years.

Using the renewable energy resources across the region, from floating offshore wind to nuclear power, the Great South West has the opportunity to produce green hydrogen at scale. End-to-end hydrogen solutions for floating offshore wind supply chains alone are estimated to deliver £1.2bn to the South West economy by 2050.

Andy Clarke, Chair of Hydrogen South West and Director for Integrated Transport at Costain, said: “With its international connections, world-leading aviation and aerospace sector, and cutting-edge research facilities, the South West is brimming with the talent, resources and connections to make it a perfect home for hydrogen investment.

“Thanks to its ideal geography, the South West is uniquely positioned to create a link between a number of industrial clusters and generate a nationally and internally connected ecosystem, creating a unique series of opportunities for economic prosperity with the potential to add tens of billions to the regional economy through tens of thousands of jobs.”

While the Celtic Sea will see 4 GW of additional Floating Offshore Wind (FLOW) projects installed by 2035, with a further 20 GW by 2045. The first GW could deliver up to 3,000 jobs and £682m in supply chain opportunities, with opportunities for investment in grid infrastructure, fabrication, operations and maintenance and offshore wind supply chains.

Matt Hodson, chief operations officer at Celtic Sea Power, said: “Floating Offshore Wind will require a large and highly competent workforce operating across the diverse range of industries delivering projects in the Celtic Sea in the 2030s. Right now, it is crucial that we harness the strong pipeline of opportunity that FLOW presents, to enhance our current training provision and attract more people into careers which deliver critical core competencies. Cross sector and cross regional collaboration will be essential to achieving this.”

Dr Stephen Wyatt, director of strategy at ORE Catapult, added: “The greater South West region is in pole position to capitalise on the huge economic opportunity which the renewables in the Celtic Sea present. To unlock this potential, local and national Governments must work with the private sector to put the required ports and grid infrastructure in place. Meanwhile, organisations such as ORE Catapult will be working with innovators and would-be supply chain companies to develop the suite of new products and services needed to serve this new industry, and create high value jobs for generations to come.”

Professor Deborah Greaves OBE, professor of Ocean Engineering at the University of Plymouth, director of the Centre for Decarbonisation, and director of the Supergen ORE Hub, said: “With offshore renewable energy technologies forming the backbone of the Government’s future plans for energy generation and net zero, it creates a series of unprecedented economic opportunities. And few places in the UK are better placed to take advantage of that than here in the South West. That could lead to significant investment and expansion in the companies at the forefront of the technology’s development, but also the engineering sector, ports and communities more generally that will be essential to its infrastructure.”

In addition, market share of EVs in the UK is projected to exceed targets, and sales expected to reach over half a million in 2028, the Great South West believes local companies could see huge growth opportunities.

The partnership is calling on Government to unlock the national grid, reform planning and licensing, and support early-stage innovation and large-scale generation, to help realise the region’s clean energy potential.