It is an accepted sign of a slowdown in the construction industry – and a harbinger of recession – when cranes start to disappear from city skylines.
An article published in The Financial Times (FT) on 4 November, therefore, is unwelcome news for those who have staked a bet on a boom in offshore wind – whether that is developers, supply chain contractors, advisers or politicians.
For those who have not read the article (by Pilita Clark, FT’s Environment Correspondent), the basic thrust is that orders for offshore wind turbines have come to an abrupt halt in the UK, in what some industry figures regard as the first clear sign of a “long-feared” slowdown in renewable energy investment.
The FT reports that the three leading turbine manufacturers – Siemens, Vestas and Repower Systems – have taken only one order between them this year.
Industry widely blames two issues for the slowdown: the first is the long-standing gripe about the speed of consenting, and the other is the ongoing uncertainty over the implementation of EMR and what some have regarded as destabilising messages coming from Westminster over the last few weeks.
Consenting delays have been with us for so long that we must surely now expect the unexpected and be able to plan accordingly: it is unlikely that there is a huge log-jam of turbine orders waiting for consents to come through.
What is more probable is that the uncertainty over EMR – and the mixed messages coming from the UK Government while we wait for EMR to hit the statute books – is causing what the FT have expressed as an “unnecessary investment freeze”.