Yesterday's budget, announcement by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, puts the UK's renewable energy sector and the nation’s 2050 net- zero target front and centre.
The budget announces significant opportunities for offshore wind and renewable hydrogen technologies (both of which are key to achieving the UK's net-zero target) with funding for new port infrastructure to build offshore wind farms in Humberside and Teesside and a new UK Infrastructure bank. The Infrastructure bank has £12 billion in funds and is to be established in Leeds to promote the net-zero transition process. Furthermore, a new green savings bond for retail investors will give people across the UK the ability to contribute to the collective effort to tackle climate change and boost green energy efforts. The Government hopes that every home will be powered by offshore wind electricity by 2030, and measures made by the 2021 budget support this goal including a £20million programme to support the development of floating offshore wind tech in the UK and a £68 million fund to develop a UK wide offshore wind demonstrators competition.
Eight new freeports have been announced, to be located in East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe and Harwich, Humber, Liverpool City region, Plymouth, Solent, Thames and Teesside. Freeports are trade zones that have different tax rules to the rest of the nation, allowing countries to import products without having to pay the UK tax rates on items before processing them in the UK. The newly announced freeports will simplify customs procedures, encouraging international business and boosting trade. Businesses investing in infrastructure and operations within freeports will also see tax breaks, which is likely to help secure supply chain investment for offshore wind. Planning laws in the freeports will also be relaxed in order to promote quicker development. The announced freeports should help to continue to drive the costs of constructing renewable energy and offshore wind projects down and make the projects more economically viable.
Visa reforms for highly skilled workers have also been revealed, in an attempt to attract international talent in science, research and technology. The education and migrant support offered by the 2021 budget is promising for the UK's renewable energy sector, helping to boost innovation and streamline the transition to a much needed green workforce. The construction industry is currently faced with a shortage of labour and a lack of green skilled workers. The budget announcement promises visa reforms and funding for further education and apprentices that can help to close this skills gap and transition construction industry workers at a pace essential to reach the 2050 net-zero target.
It continues to be an exciting time in the renewables sector with offshore wind in particular benefiting from increased support from the Government in the drive towards Net Zero. If you would like to read more about the challenges and opportunities facing the sector over the coming years, our construction team has launched a new series of articles which will explore the issues in more detail.
The first of which can be found here: Offshore Wind - A brief appraisal of offshore wind, 20 years from the first project (burges-salmon.com)