Energy Minister: 'The Humber is central to our world-leading offshore wind role'
By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 1 Feb 2017
THEY went to Westminster with the pledge that the Humber is ready to put the power in the Northern Powerhouse, and returned with ringing endorsements from the top of Government. David Laister reports on a passionate parliamentary reception.
THE Humber is central to the UK’s mission to remain the world leader in offshore wind, and the momentum is there to aid the nation’s relentless drive to succeed.
They were the resounding messages from the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy as both the Secretary of State and Energy Minister converged on a high profile Westminster reception hosted for the region.
Greg Clark and Nick Hurd joined Northern Powerhouse Minister Andrew Percy as significant Government figures at the special 'Humber-on-the-Thames' event, as business and civic ambassadors underlined the region’s readiness to put the ‘power’ into the north’s push.
All were guests of Cleethorpes and Immingham MP Martin Vickers, who hosted the Commons reception on behalf of the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership.
Mr Clark, made Secretary of State by Prime Minister Theresa May, who also highlighted the Humber’s virtues when launching the Industrial Strategy last week, said: “The Humber is an area of the country with real momentum about it. I thoroughly enjoyed attending the opening of the Siemens plant in Hull, and reflecting on all the hard work of people here, work with business, with the LEP, with the councils and other MPs, everyone coming together to make that magnificent day.
“I was particularly thrilled to see the beginning of the year of culture, Blade being installed in Queen Victoria Square. It is a good example of how industry, design and modernity is interwoven, and is a striking show of strength of the north and south banks on display as a piece of art, a piece of industry, for which there is great support around the Humber.
“Now is the time we get engaged with building on this success. There is momentum there, there are other businesses we know who are attracted by what is in the public eye. Many people are seeing Hull, the north and south banks, for the first time, and there is a big opportunity and it is great to get this interest and excitement.”
Mr Clark said Local Growth Deal funding had been well spent on the Humber, with good value for money, praising “joint working between businesses and civic leaders”. He was Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government who launched the City Deal.
“There is huge enthusiasm for what more can be done in the future,” he said. “I am a huge fan of the Humber, I am regularly invited by my colleagues and I will come back. To be showing off your wares to colleagues here in Parliament is a fantastic thing to do, there cannot be many of my colleagues in the Chamber unaware of brilliant success of Hull and Humber. To have you here, to meet them and introduce them to what you are doing, is to be applauded.”
Guests were shown a video of the Humber's offer, not just focusing on energy, but on investments from food to pharmaceuticals, with marketing organisation Bondholders behind it.
Northern Powerhouse Minister Andrew Percy's speech to the Humber reception.
Mr Clark's colleague in the merged ‘BEIS’ department, Energy Minister Nick Hurd, actually referenced the Energy Estuary moniker, coined by the Bondholders, when interviewed by Humberbusiness.com. He said: “It is hugely heartening and very important for us to have such a delegation here from the Humber.
“We are the world’s largest market in offshore wind, and it is due, in a large part, to the momentum, the energy of the businesses in the Energy Estuary.
“We have got a fantastic opportunity to make sure the UK continues to lead, to make sure the UK offshore wind industry is internationally competitive and going to be a source of good jobs in the future. I was very struck - going with Greg to the Siemens factory in Hull, a £300 million investment, 1,000 jobs, and 27,000 people applying – struck by what has been done and how far we have to go in creating more of these opportunities for people to get good jobs.
“There is still a long way to go in terms of helping to create these crucial opportunities to drive local supply chain, and through the Industrial Strategy we have made it very clear we are committed to pushing on further. As we make new investments in support of offshore wind we want to see more and more flowing through a local supply chain.
“We have got the challenge to continue being the best in the world, the Humber is centrally positioned to support offshore wind, to allow it to flourish, and we need to continue, to be relentless in keeping that going, and there is no greater champion for it than Martin (Vickers).”
The Cleethorpes and Immingham MP is regularly on his feet in the Commons to highlight the region’s role.
Welcoming nearly 80 guests, with strong representation from major employers on both banks, Mr Vickers said: “The Humber is absolutely essential to not only the local and regional economy, but the national economy.”
He reeled off the Energy Estuary’s vital statistics, covering wind, biomass, gas, oil and coal, with the role of the ports central to it all.
Ahead of the event he had said: “We are the power of the Northern Powerhouse, and I am pleased that the Prime Minister herself has recognised that recently. It puts paid to any belief we are at the periphery; we are a vital part of the Northern Powerhouse and that has been made clear by the Government repeatedly.”
The likes of Dong Energy, Siemens, Associated British Ports, RB, BP, Phillips 66, Total Lindsey Oil Refinery and Humberside Airport were all represented by senior figures, as well as the local authorities, with both South Bank leaders present, as well as organisations including Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce, Team Humber Marine Alliance and HCF Catch.
Sewell Group managing director Paul Sewell has lived and breathed the Humber all of his life. The Hull businessman who heads up the 400-employee company, said: "The Energy Estuary is about our area getting a renewed state of being. "Since the loss of the fishing industry we have not had the reason for being, now that state of being is definitely the Energy Estuary.
"What we have seen today is a good example of that right, that being, right across the Humber. We can have the four local authorities, the city, but the further away you get the economic entity people recognise is the Humber. This is a statement today.
"We have a LEP doing a decent job, decent enterprise zones, decent growth deal, and today this happening - it is making a statement of how far we have come in the last five years."
Slightly newer to the Humber concept, Benj Sykes, vice president of Dong Energy, head of asset management and UK country manager, said: “This reception is excellent and what we need to see. The Humber Estuary is really taking off, it is a major hub of established offshore wind investment and it is great to show what is going on to a Westminster audience.
“There is a lot going on, and not just in our sector, but across various different parts of industry. We have recently had the Industrial Strategy announcement so this is a prime time to be showing what is possible and what has been done.”
Dong is committed to a £6 billion Humber investment with five wind farms currently in operational, construction and development stages.
THE reception followed Mr Vickers asking formal business questions in the House of Commons chamber.
He asked: “What assessment he has made of the effect of the offshore energy sector on the Humber region?”
Mr Hurd, responding, said: “The UK is the world’s largest market for offshore wind, and the Humber energy estuary, in my hon. friend’s own words, is “ideally positioned” to serve that sector. The Secretary of State and I saw that when we visited the new £310 million Siemens turbine blade factory, which has created more than 1,000 very valuable new jobs in the area.”
Mr Vickers responded, with the invitation, taken up in style: “This afternoon the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership and Humber MPs are staging a showcase event to highlight the assets of the Energy Estuary.
“Can the Minister assure business leaders that the Government will continue to support the offshore centre, which is based in northern Lincolnshire, and the wider Humber region? Will he or one of his colleagues find time to visit the event this afternoon?
Returning to his feet, Mr Hurd said: “Yes to the event, and yes to the assurance that my hon. friend seeks about continued support. On top of the growth deal, the city deal and the enterprise zone programme, he will be well aware of the very significant Government commitment to future contract for difference auctions worth £730 million for less mature renewable technologies, including offshore wind. I hope he welcomes that.”
Scunthorpe MP Nic Dakin then asked what steps the Government were taking to ensure the highest possible UK content in the steel used to build the energy infrastructure in the Humber.
Mr Hurd said: “That is an extremely important point, and it is part of our calculation of the return on the investment made by the British taxpayer. Good progress is being made, and analysis shows that aggregated lifetime UK content in operating wind farms is 43 per cent, against a track target of around 50 per cent, and the proportion is higher for the value of operations and maintenance contracts (for which Grimsby is a recognised cluster), which run at about 70 per cent of value at the moment. This will be a key area of our focus as we go forward with the industrial strategy.”