Boris Johnson ‘to make UK the Saudi Arabia of wind power’

Prime Minister pledges offshore turbines will provide enough electricity to power every home in a decade

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds an electric vehicle charging cable as he visits the headquarters of Octopus Energy, in London, Britain October 5, 2020. Leon Neal/Pool via REUTERS
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Boris Johnson will pledge today to put wind energy at the centre of plans to “build back greener” from the coronavirus crisis.

The UK prime minister will pledge £160 million ($208 million) to upgrade ports and factories for building turbines off the British coast, making the country the “Saudi Arabia of wind energy”, with every home powered by offshore wind inside a decade.

The speech will be delivered at the Conservative Party annual conference and is seen as key to regaining a grip over the political agenda after months of negative headlines and Tory unrest over his handling of the pandemic.

“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,” Mr Johnson will say, according to extracts of the speech.

“We believe that in 10 years’ time offshore wind will be powering every home in the country.”

He will add: “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.”

Mr Johnson is seeking ways to rebuild the Covid-ravaged UK economy and to tackle a surge in joblessness expected once government employment support falls away at the end of the month.

In announcing the new plans, the prime minister is expected to face questions over previous comments made while the mayor of London where he suggested wind power "couldn't pull the skin off a rice pudding".

Asked about the comments on LBC, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the technology had "hugely improved" since the 2013 remarks.

"I don’t know if I would quite describe it like that," Mr Sunak said, adding: "The difference now is, we know it’s clean, it’s cheap and affordable, and we're very good at it."

Helping the environment is a key part of his agenda to drive growth and return to the program he set out before his decisive election victory last December.

Since then, his ratings in polls have collapsed.

Today’s remarks are a foretaste of a 10-point program for green industries the prime minister is planning to unveil later this year.

It will include support for innovation and infrastructure, his office said, without giving a specific date for the announcement.

ROEDGEN, GERMANY - AUGUST 20:  A wind turbine at sunset is pictured on August 20, 2010 in Roedgen near Bitterfeld, Germany. Germany is investing heavily in renewable energy production, including wind power and solar, and is seeking to produce 30% of its electricity nationwide with renewables by 2020.  (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

The broader package will help build hydrogen as a fuel for heavy industry, spur carbon capture technology and a ban on the sale of petrol cars, according to two people familiar with Johnson’s thinking.

“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.”