The European Commission has launched a legal challenge over UK subsidies for offshore wind farms, submitting its complaint to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) – the first such move it has made since Brexit.
The executive branch of the European Union (EU) claims Downing Street’s new criteria in awarding subsidies for offshore wind projects favours companies using turbines sourced domestically over imports, in breach of WTO rules.
The UK government currently asks offshore wind farm developers to reveal how many parts they have sourced from the country.
It insists the so-called “local content” request is within the rules of the WTO.
A Whitehall source told The Telegraph: “At a time when the West should be united in defeating Putin, this act of envy by Brussels is ill-judged ill-timed. We should be working together to strengthen European clean energy security, not fighting this out in court.”
“Our policies to boost Britain’s offshore wind industry are comparable to many other schemes in the EU, so we are puzzled why Brussels are challenging our scheme when they do pretty much the same.”
While offshore wind has been a key part of the UK’s plans to ramp up renewables and provide cheaper and greener energy, its record in stimulating domestic jobs and manufacturing is more questionable.
On the one hand, five new offshore wind factories have been set up in the UK over the past 12 months alone, leading to 3,000 jobs and involving £1.5bn of private investment.
However, while the UK is now second only to China in terms of installed wind power capacity – this concentration has not translated into an enterprise boom domestically with foreign companies benefitting instead.
In figures published in The Financial Times, RenewableUK estimates just 29 per cent of capital expenditure on offshore wind projects goes into the UK economy.
Consequently, Prime minister Boris Johnson wants to lift that level of expenditure spent with UK-based suppliers to between 40 and 50 per cent, and 60 per cent of lifetime spend, including maintenance.