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Boris Johnson: ‘Wind that puffed the sails of Drake’ will power a green future

Written by on 6 October 2020

Boris Johnson is claiming the coronavirus crisis should be a trigger for green energy, with wind farms powering every home in Britain within a decade.

In his speech to the Tory party’s online conference, the prime minister will unveil a vision of the economy post-COVID, with the UK a world leader in clean energy.

In a fightback after criticism of his COVID strategy, he will claim the UK is to wind what Saudi Arabia is to oil, and say “it was offshore wind that puffed the sails” of Drake, Raleigh and Nelson.

And taking on sceptics of green energy, he will say: “You heard me right. Your kettle, your washing machine, your cooker, your heating, your plug-in electric vehicle – the whole lot of them will get their juice cleanly and without guilt from the breezes that blow around these islands.

But Mr Johnson’s green energy pledge is likely to be overshadowed by the continuing row over a COVID test and trace IT blunder which has left up to 50,000 people at risk.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner hit out: “The testing fiasco over the past 24 hours has again exposed the serial incompetence of Boris Johnson and his government.

“The prime minister should use his speech to set out how he will get a grip and tackle the crisis at hand.”

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In his speech, the PM will promise GBP160 million to upgrade ports and infrastructure in so-called “Red Wall” areas like Teesside and the Humber as well as new turbines in Scotland and Wales.

“We need to give people the chance to train for the new jobs that are being created every day – in new technologies and new ways of doing things,” Mr Johnson will say.

“And, 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.

“We will invest GBP160 million in ports and factories across the country, to manufacture the next generation of turbines.

“And we will not only build fixed arrays in the sea, we will build windmills that float on the sea – enough to deliver one gigawatt of energy by 2030, 15 times as much as the rest of the world put together.

“Far out in the deepest waters we will harvest the gusts, and by upgrading infrastructure in places like Teesside and Humber and Scotland and Wales we will increase an offshore wind capacity that is already the biggest in the world.

“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.

“This investment in offshore wind alone will help to create 60,000 jobs in this country – and help us to get to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

Renewable energy overtakes fossil fuels in powering Britain

The GBP160 million investment programme will see around 2,000 construction jobs rapidly created and support up to 60,000 jobs directly and indirectly by 2030 in ports, factories and the supply chains, according to Downing Street, “manufacturing the next-generation of offshore wind turbines and delivering clean energy to the UK”.

Responding to the PM’s announcement, Green Party 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.”

But Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven was more enthusiastic, saying: “The prime minister’s recognition that last year’s Tory manifesto commitment on offshore wind can generate jobs whilst cutting energy bills and carbon is a great lightbulb moment.

“If carried through it would help cement the UK’s global leadership in this key technology. But delivering 40 GWs of power on to the grid by 2030 requires action in this parliament.”