Foreign contractors ‘favoured in energy schemes’

Local firms say they are missing out on contracts in the renewable energy sector because investors from overseas favour their own fellow national contractors.

French and German energy giants are sourcing up to 90% of content for their offshore windfarm fields around the UK from French and German companies, making it difficult for UK firms to get traction in the market, according to David Williams, business development manager at Cammell Laird Shiprepairers & Shipbuilders.

"These are UK national infrastructure projects and the UK is not being allowed to actually have a place in the building of these fields," said Williams.

Gwynt y Mor off the North Wales coast is backed by three main investors, all of them German, including the city state for Munich. Cammell Laird did manage to win the contract to supply 600-tonne turbine collar pieces for the Gwynt y Mor field. Williams said the shipyard's unique position on the Mersey and skills put it in a good position to fabricate and offload large heavy products for movement by sea. Cammell Laird is currently working on plans to make the offshore substation platforms with other partners.

However, in other fields Williams said contract notices advertised by Continental investors in the Official Journal of the European Union were "strategically formulated" in favour of overseas suppliers.

Williams urged the UK government to back domestic infrastructure projects and follow the lead of countries like Austria where city states invest in their own local power supply.

Meanwhile, a lack of investment by local authorities is also harming prospects in the renewable sector. Richard Mathias, chief executive of Liverpool-based family wealth investor Belvedere Energy Investments, said he had invested in 120 sites across the UK but it remained a "frustration that we've not been able to invest enough money in Liverpool and the region".

Belvedere invests in large-scale commercial solar panel installation, saving large occupiers money on energy production and sharing the return on electricity sold into the National Grid.

Mathias continued: "We've spoken to Liverpool City Council on a few occasions and we've said 'look this is what we do and if you want to talk come back to us' and then we don't hear anything. Basically there are more proactive people around the country and we're going to take the best opportunities."

Christine Darbyshire, senior environment development manager at Liverpool City Council, said the policy landscape did not help planned investment as public energy initiatives changed every two years and the government had not set out its long-term energy policy.

Darbyshire added: "And given the budgetary cuts that are coming into local government it's very hard to put that much energy into something on these sorts of two-year spans."

  • Hill Dickinson and Place North West hosted the roundtable event on low carbon economy, from which these comments were taken, at Liverpool LEP's office in Princes Dock. Among the attendees at the event were Chris Acton, lead renewable consultant, Carbon Consultancy Company; Les Bellmon, senior regeneration consultant, Eldonian Group; Christine Darbyshire, senior environment development manager, Liverpool City Council; Mark Knowles, head of low carbon, Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership; Richard Mathias, chief executive, Belvedere Energy Investments; Alex McCann, partner, Hill Dickinson; Steve Pimlott, senior consultant, Arup; Alan Pugh, partner, Hill Dickinson; Guy Shorrock, building surveyor and energy assessor, Aldrock Chartered Building Surveyors & Energy Assessors; Peter Sutton, head of operations, DONG Energy Power (UK); David Williams, business development manager, Cammell Laird Shiprepairers & Shipbuilders; Paul Unger, editor, Place North West.

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