David Cameron’s plans for “green jobs and growth” were dealt a blow last night after the world’s biggest wind turbine maker scrapped plans for a giant factory in Kent that would have created 2,000 jobs. Vestas, a Danish company, said it would no longer proceed with its flagship Sheerness project amid concerns about political support for wind power in Britain.
The company’s withdrawal will be an embarrassment for the Government, which had cited the Sheerness factory as evidence of new green jobs being created in the UK. Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, last week described wind power as a “strategic industry of national importance” on which Britain’s “clean energy future depends”.
The company last year promised to build the factory if the Government gave it “long term political certainty” and there was “stability in the market”. It would have been one of the largest offshore wind turbine factories of its kind in Europe. But Vestas yesterday said it had not received enough orders and hinted the industry had not had sufficient political support from the Government. “We are following the political situation very closely,” a Vestas spokesman added. “The right political decisions are needed in order to support the market for offshore wind energy in the UK.”
Ministers are preparing to cut subsidies for onshore wind farms by up to 25 per cent, and there are concerns that generous handouts for offshore wind farms could follow suit.
The decision to pull out of the factory is the second time Vestas has opted out of the UK market in recent years. It closed down a plant making onshore turbines on the Isle of Wight in 2009, with the loss of 400 jobs.
Workers at the Isle of Wight plant protested by occupying the building for 18 days when the company announced plans to stop producing blades.
The Prime Minister has also spoken of the need to power the economy with “green growth”. Building more wind turbines is a major strategic goal of the Coalition, which wants to get a third of Britain’s electricity from renewable sources by the end of the decade.
Gaynor Hartnell, the chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association, said the UK had seen “far too much chopping and changing in its renewables policies”.
China Ming Yang Wind Power Group Ltd. (MY)’s Bulgarian wind project with W.Power Ltd. may be canceled should the country proceed with plans to cut state support for the technology by almost a quarter, their joint venture said.
“This is a critical mistake for a country that needs to be very careful with foreign investors,” said Jonathan Mann, chief executive officer of the companies’ MW Power OOD venture.
Government proposals to reduce its wind subsidy by about 22 percent to 148.71 lev ($95) a megawatt-hour may be a “killer” for the 124-megawatt wind farm development in Pleven, north Bulgaria, Mann said by telephone from Bucharest, Romania.
Bulgaria, the European Union’s poorest country by economic output per head, is seeking revenue to cut a budget deficit and weather the effect of the euro area’s economic crisis. At the same time, it’s promoting clean power to try to meet an EU goal of getting 16 percent of its energy from renewables by 2020. Most of the Balkan nation’s oil and gas is imported from Russia.