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Humber is the headline act at international offshore wind conference

THE biggest global wind event lost its keynote speaker to today's Brexit vote in Westminster, but it gave the stage to the Humber's renaissance as offshore wind champion Baroness Brown picked up the baton.

Humber is the headline act at international offshore wind conference

A three-line whip meant Claire Perry could not address the huge conference in Manchester in person, instead urging industry to "keep up the fantastic work" via a pre-recorded video, as seen below.

The second day of the RenewableUK flagship event had been planned to bring the political heavyweights to the stage, with a strong track record of ministerial attendance. 

But the EU Withdrawal Bill's return to the House of Commons meant that fresh from the Race Bank inauguration in Grimsby last week, where she was an interested observer, Baroness Brown stepped up - drawing on her visit.

She used Grimsby and the Humber as a key plank of her speech as she urged Government to commit to a confidence-boosting 'clear line of sight' by signing off the huge offshore wind sector deal, revealed in March.

She said: "We need to get to a place where everyone knows there is going to be a market there, everyone can confidently invest.

"Only government can give that line of sight confidence that this is going to happen. That is the core of our ask of Claire and BEIS. That brings in £50 billion of investment, 27,000 skilled jobs, many of them technical and in engineering. Jobs that will give people really transferable skills that will be great across industry.

"It comes with a commitment to government to deliver cost reduction that will come with this and will become one of the very cheapest ways of delivering electricity and delivering reductions rather than business as usual."

Baroness Brown referred back to last week's celebration as she underlined where the UK is now, with 1,800 turbines installed, providing 7GW of electricity.

"30GW may sound like a big step, but having been at Race Bank's inauguration, having heard from Siemens Gamesa and Orsted how quickly they can install these turbines, it seems quite a small, unambitious step at the rate they are talking about putting them up!"

She told how the impact on GDP from the industry was "almost entirely outside the South East which is exactly what we need.

"It is something that has captured the imagination of Government, of Claire. I saw with the cluster in Hull and Grimsby with the Siemens blade factory with Orsted's operations and maintenance activity, the Aura innovation hub and links with University of Hull. It is great to see pride that the community is taking. It is not surprising but great, and driving round Grimsby Fish Docks, boy does that area need investment and regeneration. This is a really good news story and government is going to be very proud to be working with us."

Another deal on the Treasury table is the Greater Grimsby Town Deal, with the Kazbah - the element Baroness Brown no doubt referred to as she swept by from Orsted's East Coast Hub, a central pillar, and partnership from the likes of Orsted and ABP key.   "It is transformational for these communities and great to see what the companies have been doing in making sure these jobs go to local people and making sure they employ a really diverse work force," she added.

As usual there's a strong Humber presence in Manchester Central, with Team Humber Marine Alliance hosting a major exhibition strand in partnership with Green Port Hull and Invest NEL and member companies. Orsted has a significant exhibition too, as do MHI Vestas and Innogy. The latter will work together on Triton Knoll. 

Orsted UK managing director Matthew Wright, a panellist on later discussions, was heartened by the words of the minister and baroness.

He said: "It is all very positive. The thing that really comes out is the transformational capability of a sector deal. It is tremendously exciting, and something we hope will be adopted."

Questions were invited from the audience to help shape the sector deal ask, and one of few selected was Grimsby solicitor Jonathan Goolden. The Wilkin Chapman partner picked up on the baroness's visit to North East Lincolnshire, asking: "I was delighted to hear your insight about the Humber cluster, we are enormously proud of what we have achieved so far and you can see how far we need to go. All these wonderful things are going offshore, how can we make sure Grimsby and Hull are fully part of the Northern Powerhouse agenda? We have to invest and develop our core infrastructure to maintain and keep this skilled work force."

Hugh McNeal, chief executive of RenewableUK, said there were similar issues in other cluster areas, with Baroness Brown addeing: "I think Lord Haskins (Humber LEP chair) is doing a fantastic job for you on that. He is such a strong, powerful and proud voice and is doing a good job in getting the message out."

Baroness Brown revealed how the whole first session was nearly scuppered by Brexit.

Before launching into her speech, she said: "The reason why Claire is not here is because the EU Withdrawal Bill is back in the House of Commons. As I was sitting on the train I got an email to say it was back in the House of Lords this afternoon. I don't think we will get it until 7.30pm, but it nearly scuppered Hugh's first session completely."

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