The Prime Minister’s announcement falls woefully short of a comprehensive green new deal that would actually build a better, greener Britain.
Every home in the country will be powered by offshore wind within 10 years, Boris Johnson will tell the Conservative conference today as he pledges a green industrial revolution that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The Prime Minister will say the coronavirus crisis should be used as a catalyst to make the UK world leader in clean power generation, using the same language as the Labour Party election campaign only last year.
The wind power plan will see £160 million made available to upgrade ports and infrastructure across areas like Teesside and Humber in northern England, Scotland and Wales as the next generation of turbines are built.
Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “Investment in offshore wind is welcome. For far too long, UK companies have been blocked by a lack of Government support.
“But the Prime Minister’s announcement falls woefully short of a comprehensive green new deal that would actually build a better, greener Britain.”
John Sauven, executive director at Greenpeace UK, said: “If carried through, [this] would help cement the UK’s global leadership in this key technology.
"But delivering 40 gigawatts of power on to the grid by 2030 requires action in this parliament.
"We now need to see the prime minister’s newly found enthusiasm is followed through by knocking down all the barriers that the offshore wind industry faces in delivering its ambition.”
Caterina Brandmayr, head of climate at the Green Alliance think tank, told The Guardian: “A green recovery is the best way to create jobs in every part of the UK, to lead the world in tackling climate change, and to protect our precious natural world.
"The race is now on for the government and British businesses to replicate the success story of offshore wind in electric vehicles, smart grid technology and future-proofed homes.”
The prime minister will address the virtual Tory conference as the government is mired in controversy over the operation of the coronavirus test and trace system.
He also faces a Tory rebellion in the Commons over Covid-19 restrictions such as the inclusion of children in the “rule of six” governing gatherings, and the 10pm pub curfew.
The speech comes after a tumultuous period in office which has seen Mr Johnson win a major general election majority and the UK formally leave the EU, but face criticism over the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak, and his style of Government.
Mr Johnson will say: “There is one area where we are progressing quite literally with gale force speed and that is the green economy – the green industrial revolution that in the next 10 years will create hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of jobs.
“I can today announce that the UK Government has decided to become the world leader in low cost clean power generation – cheaper than coal and gas – and we believe that in 10 years’ time offshore wind will be powering every home in the country, with our target rising from 30 gigawatts to 40 gigawatts."
He added: “We will invest £160 million in ports and factories across the country, to manufacture the next generation of turbines.
The focus on renewable power will see the PM distance himself from his previous views – in 2013 he said wind farms “failed to pull the skin off a rice pudding”.
In his speech Mr Johnson will say: “As Saudi Arabia is to oil, the UK is to wind – a place of almost limitless resource, but in the case of wind without the carbon emissions and without the damage to the environment.
“I remember how some people used to sneer at wind power, 20 years ago, and say that it wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding.
“They forgot the history of this country. It was offshore wind that puffed the sails of Drake and Raleigh and Nelson, and propelled this country to commercial greatness.”
Downing Street said the £160 million investment programme “will see around 2,000 construction jobs rapidly created and will enable the sector to support up to 60,000 jobs directly and indirectly by 2030 in ports, factories and the supply chains, manufacturing the next-generation of offshore wind turbines and delivering clean energy to the UK”.
Shaun Connolly is the PA political correspondent. Additional reporting and editing by Brendan Montague, editor of The Ecologist.