Wind energy and employment

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole is right to point out the energy potential of Irish offshore wind farms (“Europe doesn’t need our soldiers – it needs our energy”, Opinion & Analysis, 19 May).

Production of 80 GW would, as he rightly puts it, put Ireland at the forefront of a new industrial revolution.

This would require 6,400 giant 12.5 to 14 MW offshore wind turbines on 250 meter towers with blades over 100 meters long. Some 16 million tons of steel would be needed. These cost up to £35m (€42m) each when cabling and transmission costs are included.

By contrast, the UK’s Climate Change Committee target is 100 GW of new offshore wind capacity. This requires 8,000 giant offshore wind turbines using 20 million tons of steel.

There is no UK supply chain for the steel fabrication of the towers and foundations for a program of this scale.

GMB union members at wind turbine yards in Scotland estimate that 30,000 new steelmaking jobs are needed in the UK for this work.

As things stand, these jobs are outsourced to low-paid workers at construction sites in Asia.

GMB is looking for a UK Renewable Energy Development Authority with a mandate and budget to work with private sector employers and training providers to commission new yards and train a new workforce steel fabrication work in what will be highly skilled, well-paying jobs in areas that badly need this new work. The payment of subsidies would be linked to the use of this supply chain. It should also ensure that transport infrastructure is developed.

The absence of a renewable energy supply chain in the UK also applies to Ireland. This too would require close to 30,000 new steel manufacturing jobs.

Transformation on this scale cannot be achieved by the status quo. GMB believes that the UK and Irish governments and devolved administrations should work together on this. The combined 180 GW of Britain and Ireland would be the largest offshore clusters in the world. The opportunities for economies of scale and developing new supply chains for all kit are simply enormous.

Besides providing clean energy, the goal should be to maximize the number of jobs in local supply chains. These can replace current jobs in the carbon economy that will be phased out in the Shannon Estuary, for example.

Fintan O’Toole is right to point out the huge potential. A total of 60,000 new steelmaking jobs, in often overlooked coastal areas across Britain and Ireland, is one such prize. – Yours, etc.,

WARREN KENNY,

regional secretary,

GmbH,

London.

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