TENS of millions of pounds are being invested by the Government in the offshore wind industry to create thousands of jobs and keep the UK as a world leader in the sector.

Ministers said the £66m funding to improve the supply chain for offshore wind developments, boost innovation and bring new products to market could help the industry contribute £7bn to the economy and create 30,000 jobs by 2020.

The announcement came as industry body RenewableUK revealed that the UKs total onshore and offshore wind capacity had passed 10 gigawatts, providing enough power for the equivalent of 5.5 million homes.

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The Government investment is part of a new offshore wind strategy, which also includes the creation of an organisation to attract inward investment to the UK, and proposals to require major developers applying for subsidies to draw up a plan on how they will boost the supply chain.

The UK has more offshore wind power than the rest of the world combined, and the strategy aims to expand the supply chain so more of the manufacturing is done in the UK, creating jobs and growth.

The plans were announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Energy Secretary Ed Davey during a visit to Grimsby to formally open Centrica's £1bn Lincs offshore wind farm.

The Government investment includes £20m from the regional growth fund for a new manufacturing advisory service to help the UK supply chain become more competitive.

And £46m will come from the Technology Strategy Board over five years to link up innovation between Government, industry and academics, and help companies bring new products to market.

Mr Clegg said: The race is now on to lead the world in clean, green energy. As an island nation and with our weather, the UK is ideally placed to make the most of offshore wind energy - you could say it was a technology designed for us.

This strategy will help keep Britain as the world leader in one of the most important industries of the 21st century.

If we make the most of offshore winds potential in the UK, it can provide a big proportion of the energy that lights our homes and powers our economy.

Lib Dem colleague Business Secretary Vince Cable said: We have more offshore wind power than the rest of the world combined and, if we get it right and strike now, we will also see this new technology creating thousands of jobs here as well.

The commitment and partnership that this strategy represents is an important step in giving the industry more confidence to invest here in Britain, build factories, increase capacity at ports, develop skills and carry out high-end research to tackle the problems posed by the unforgiving offshore environment.

The Government-backed Green Investment Bank also plans to invest a significant proportion of its £3.8bn capital in offshore wind, teaming up with investors to back projects.

Mr Davey said: There is now real momentum with offshore wind. Recently we opened the London Array - the largest operating wind farm in the world and I have just given planning permission to build an even bigger offshore wind farm, Triton Knoll off the Lincolnshire coast.

With this strategy, Britain can become the world leader in supplying this industry too.

RenewableUK's chief executive, Maria McCaffery, said: "This strategy clearly identifies the extraordinary opportunity that offshore wind offers to the UK.
This document is a blueprint for green-collar job creation which, as long as its recommendations are fully implemented, will ensure that Britain reaps the once-in-a-lifetime benefits offered by our world-leading offshore wind sector."

Greenpeace UK's chief scientist Doug Parr, said: "It's good to see the Government thinking big on offshore wind - a technology that is key to cutting dangerous carbon emissions from our energy sector and helping our economy out of the doldrums."

But he warned that the Governments decision not to set a target to slash emissions from the power sector by 2030, which would send a strong signal to investors about low-carbon power, undermined the backing for renewables.

"The failure to set a 2030 target to decarbonise the UKs electricity generation sends a contradictory message to businesses, raising questions over how serious ministers really are about backing wind power.

"It's time for the government to start speaking with one voice on an issue that is crucial to Britains energy future," he said.