Ahead of talks this week...

£100m wind power fund offers lifeline to Bifab yards

Pat Rafferty

Pat Rafferty: ‘last chance saloon’ (pic: Terry Murden)

BiFab’s mothballed yards in Fife have been thrown a possible lifeline in the form of a £100 million UK government fund to help UK firms capitalise on the boom in offshore wind.

Trade unions say the boom has not generated enough jobs for UK workers and a crucial meeting takes place this week with the Scottish government, electricity generator EDF and owner of the Fife yards DF Barnes to stop vital work going overseas.

The Offshore Wind Industry Council says its initiative will help hundreds of firms “maximise opportunities” in the supply chain. The OWIC, which is a joint government and industry body, will invest the privately-raised funds over 10 years to support companies in the supply chain.

Firms that manufacture parts, lay cables and maintain wind farms will receive support ranging from “expert advice on manufacturing and commercialisation” to funding for innovation. They will also be given support to export their products and services.

By 2030 the offshore wind power market is expected to be worth £30 billion per year, with the UK expected to be generating a third of its electricity from wind. The OWIC hopes to raise the participation of UK businesses in the industry from 48% currently to 60%, under a sector deal agreed between industry and government.

Chris Skidmore, UK Energy and Clean Growth Minister, said the new fund will bring “investment, thousands of high-quality jobs and huge economic opportunities for communities across the UK”.

Benj Sykes, chairman of the OWIC and UK country manager for the Danish firm Orsted, said: “The Offshore Wind Growth Partnership will provide practical help for UK companies so they can compete successfully for contracts in this thriving global market.”

Last month GMB general secretary, Tim Roache said Britain’s politicians needed “to sharpen their elbows in the fight for jobs” when it came to opportunities in the growing renewables sector.

The union says up to 1,000 jobs could be created at Bifab’s yards in Fife if EDF chose local firms to manufacture parts for the Neart na Goaithe offshore wind farm project off the Firth of Forth. The work is expected to go to Belgium, Indonesia and Spain.

Pat Rafferty, Unite Scottish Secretary, said:  “It’s vital that we have all the decision makers round the table to explore how we can get as much work as possible into the BiFab yards.

“The Neart na Goaithe offshore wind farm is worth £2 billion and we know the decision to award work by EDF is imminent. We feel this contract could be the last chance saloon for Scotland to get a meaningful manufacturing foothold in the renewables sector.

“It’s also clear to Unite that unless there are legal obligations written into future renewables contracts then this potential scandal will just roll-on to the next one.”

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