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Speech by RenewableUK CEO Hugh McNeal at RenewableUK's Global Offshore Wind conference

Posted By RenewableUK, 21 June 2016

Good afternoon everyone.  Can I add my thanks to all of our sponsors too without whose support we would not be able to put on an event like this, and to all of you for joining us over these 2 days.

What a fantastic morning we have had. It has been great to walk the floor of the exhibition meeting so many of you, to see the standing room only Share Fair event, to see businesses doing business.  It is one of the great pleasures - of many - of this role.

I am of course conscious that many of you are nervous of what may happen this week, and the implication of the judgement of the British people on your businesses, on your plans, and on your futures.  But I hope in the next 10 or 15 minutes to remind you of how much you have achieved and most important of the great future I am convinced our industry will enjoy regardless of the result of the vote in 2 days’ time. To remind you of what we offer.

Since starting as your CEO just under 3 months ago, I have been making the case that renewables are now part of a new energy mainstream here in Britain and around the world; securing investment that is delivering transformative and revolutionary change and driving a revitalisation of our energy infrastructure.

As I am sure we will hear from Michael Leibreich when he speaks tomorrow, more than half of global energy investment last year was in renewables, a third of that investment in China - especially relevant for us today as we warmly welcome the largest ever Chinese offshore wind delegation to Britain and to this conference and exhibition. For the first time last year, we witnessed more renewable than non-renewable capacity deployed across the globe; and for our offshore wind industry a market worth a record $23bn, from its origins here in Britain, then in Denmark and Germany and Europe to a truly global industry. China with a quarter of global investment, in the United States, with auctions planned for 9 commercial leases across the country, and in seas around the world.  This growth is remarkable both in its speed and its reach.

Here in Britain, renewables delivered a quarter of our electricity in 2015 - more than coal and more than nuclear.  Wind alone providing 12%.  The members of our Association, those who choose to be members of RenewableUK - and if you are not a member please join while you are here and become part of what we are all achieving together - employ over a quarter of a million people across Britain and Northern Ireland.

My point is this: whatever stage you are at, however you are contributing, large global company, small start-up or anything in-between, you are part of something big and important.  Together, your companies are investing billions of pounds.  Offshore wind is bringing well over £20 billion investment to Britain alone this decade.  DONG alone £6bn to the Humber between 2013 and 2019, an area with some of the highest levels of unemployment in the country.  Alongside this investment, we are seeing cost reduction and scale innovation which you might associate more readily with consumer electronics, with TVs and telephones, than with multibillion pound infrastructure projects.  Whichever way you cut it, the figures are large, the delivery impressive.  This is no start up industry.

All of which begs the question: why do so few people appear to know the scale of what is being achieved and what are we - everyone in this room - going to do about it?

I am not a conspiracy theorist.  I don't believe that people are deliberately hiding or downplaying what we are delivering.  I just do not think that we have been telling our story loud or often enough.

We need to show what we offer.  We need to tell the story of our business success.  We need to create a picture of the future we are building.  That is why both in private and in public I have been stressing the need for us to move away from asks, from saying what we need, and to move instead to a different conversation with Government and with the public, showing and explaining clearly what we offer, what we offer Britain and what we will increasingly offer around the world.

It is appropriate that we are in Manchester to set out this offer.  We are in a city at the heart of the industrial revolution, a city which played such a key role in infrastructure development, from the Bridgewater Canal and the waterways which connected this part of the world to Liverpool and the open seas 240 years ago to the world's first inter-city passenger railway just over 50 years later.

Our work, your delivery, deserves this context.    Almost 1 pound in every 5 being spent on infrastructure in Britain is in renewables, with offshore wind leading the way.  You are driving down cost, innovating and investing in our country on a massive scale – the over £20 billion you are investing here is more than Britain is spending on flood defences, on airports, on our IT and Broadband combined over the rest of the decade.  Is there a more compelling story of infrastructure transformation and change in Britain in this decade? Of what has been achieved by two Conservative-led Governments? I can't think of one.

And we know we have more to offer.  Alongside new gas and new nuclear plant, interconnection, demand side response and all of the other technologies which can deliver a balanced future energy mix, we offer a pipeline of projects ready to be deployed and financed, and which can help Britain meet its electricity needs in the future as the majority of our nuclear plant and all of our coal plant is retired over the next decade

But while the numbers are impressive and while it is important that everyone knows we have projects which are ready to be built now, I think it is the personal stories, the stories of your businesses which resonate and show what we offer best of all.

A few weeks ago I spent an evening in Bridlington meeting 100 or so  companies working in offshore wind; companies installing winch systems and other specialist equipment, supplying boats and jack-up vessels; companies training people to work at sea; companies that analyse the sea bed; professional services firms providing legal and financial advice; companies that work in the digital economy, software providers; firms providing economic modelling; even a former Asda store manager whose father had invested in his business filming the building at the Siemens site and who now has a successful digital media business. 

These, of course, sit alongside the anchoring investments like those in Hull, where in a few months a 1000 workers will start producing the largest single mould component in the world at the Siemens / ABP site, the revitalised MHI/Vestas site on the Isle of Wight now employing 260 people and supplying not only the UK market but for export too with 11 UK supply heroes, the recent investment in Campbeltown by CS wind; the contract awarded to BiFab, the role we are playing in revitalising and securing new investment in ports along our coasts - these are all investments that have the power to transform the lives of those who benefit from them, who secure work because of them, that can help to regenerate communities and provide possibilities which might otherwise have been lost.

What strikes me more and more in this role, and as I think about these stories, your stories, is the reach - both geographic and economic - in what we are achieving.  We are not a sector - well not in any narrow sense of that word.  We touch on almost all areas of economic activity, and we increasingly reach all parts of this country.  Offshore wind is already a massive British success story.

This success is being built on international co-operation. On the relationships that are built at events like these.  On the conversations you have with the delegation of senior leaders from China I welcomed this morning. On the partnerships and investment we have been able to welcome from Europe, and from around the world and as we have built this industry in recent years.

Let me return to my evening in Bridlington.  Less than a decade ago I met a young British company setting up in offshore wind before any of the deployment that has marked our success in recent years.  Its founders saw the potential of boat services and marine operations in that market.  Last month in Bridlington, I had the pleasure of meeting up with them again, no longer a start-up but part of a global marine company worth over £100m, a leading light in the offshore wind industry and now one of the fastest growing companies anywhere in Britain.

You will all have stories like these; stories of success that deserve to be told, and to be heard.  Stories of how British leadership and international co-operation and investment is delivering economic opportunity and jobs at the most local levels; of a market born in British waters expanding across the world with all of the opportunity this expansion brings - not narrow conversations about our gigawatts or the amount of British content in our projects but British based companies working with and alongside international companies delivering successfully all over the world.  As in the 1800s, our future success will not be achieved in isolation but in partnership with international companies who recognise British skills and strengths and complement them with their own, who recognise, as William Siemens did over 170 years ago, that Britain "is the place if anything is to be done".

So whatever the British people decide on Thursday my message to you is our future is bright; the global opportunity immense.  Of course, as your CEO it is my job and my team's job to engage with Governments, with public servants, with anyone who can help provide an environment for you to invest.  And we will do so.  But now is not a time for asks.  Now more than anything it is my job, your job, our job to tell the stories of our success; to speak locally, to speak nationally, to speak globally of what we are achieving and what we offer, of the possibilities that are now opening up because of British leadership as our market becomes increasingly global.  To tell the stories that reach back to a historic past but open up a truly global future for us all. A new infrastructure revolution is being led by you.  Now is the time to show what that means and what it offers.

Thank you very much – I am v much looking forward to meeting with many of you over the next two days and hearing more of what you are achieving and delivering, and as your Chief Executive working with you to keep building this exciting and vital industry.


Tags:  CEO  GOW2016 

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