Are the Tories privatising the wind?

The UK’s future is windy. We already have more offshore wind turbines installed than any other country – boosted after last week’s subsidies auction awarding another 3,200 MW in three enormous new farms. By 2030, we’ll have doubled, tripled or even quadrupled the offshore turbines around our coastline – depending on who’s in government.

Rolling out a wind-focused energy future becomes easier as the costs of building new turbines are slashed. This has been celebrated as the private sector delivering clean tech – but it’s actually publicly-owned companies that are driving cost reductions and leading the low carbon drive, companies like Danish DONG, Swedish Vattenfall, Norwegian Statoil and Munich’s municipal utility. In fact – publicly-owned companies own over 50% of the UK’s offshore wind according to a new report just released by Labour Energy Forum.

Earlier this year Shadow BEIS secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey asked the government how much of UK offshore wind was owned by UK companies. The Tories dodged the question. But our new report reveals exactly who owns what and he findings are pretty damning.

The UK public owns one solitary wind turbine, run by a Catapult research centre. That’s 0.07% of our offshore wind.  Even the British private sector is barely a player, controlling only 7.3% of installed and under-construction turbines. In this context, it’s unsurprising that a devastatingly low 18% of manufacturing and construction of turbines was sourced from within the UK.

Our general election manifesto committed to sourcing 60% of the UK’s energy from renewable and low-carbon sources by 2030. But we also need to make sure Labour’s industrial strategy is generating the jobs and community benefits that such a wholesale transformation of our economy should deliver.

As we accelerate the clean energy revolution, we shouldn’t privatise our natural resources. Not least because as our research shows, European public enterprises are proving to be more efficient than private corporations. But if Munich is driving the offshore wind transition in the UK and benefiting from public subsidies, then why not London, Manchester, Cardiff or Glasgow?

As a Labour Party committed to both a rapid climate transition and social justice, we need to beware cheerleading a sector just because a lot of offshore wind turbines have been built. We must not repeat the mistakes made with North Sea oil.  Norway used its oil wealth to create a public revenues fund that can sustain their welfare state for decades, but the UK gave its wealth away in tax breaks to oil company bosses.

Publicly owned offshore wind could revitalise UK industry, minimise costs to energy consumers, while benefiting the British public, including residents, firms and workers. A powerful offshore wind industry has the potential to revitalise ports and coastal communities and bring industrial activity and jobs to towns and cities often seen as “post-industrial”.

Everyone’s talking about whether water, rail, and energy utilities should be publicly and democratically controlled. We’ve got to have this conversation about offshore wind, too, or the Tories will sell this huge resource off before we know it.


Labour Energy Forum (@labour_energy) brings together Labour party members to promote bold left visions for a clean, reindustrialised and democratised economy and energy system. Facing unacceptable fuel poverty and a climate crisis, they organise for energy democracy and a just transition. They will be launching their report ‘Who Owns The Wind’ with Rebecca Long Bailey MP and Clive Lewis MP at a fringe event at Conference next week. It’s part of the Repowering Britain special programme featuring Chi Onwurah MP, Rachael Maskell MP, Diane Abbott MP, Paul Mason and many others. Hosted by Labour Energy Forum, Repowering Britain is a 2-day series of fringe events at Labour conference, promoting bold left visions for a transformed economy, society and energy system, from industrial strategy to our transport future. 

Mika Minio-Paluello (@mikaminio) is an Energy Economist who has been analysing oil and gas contracts and climate risk for 12 years. Mika now focuses on offshore wind, public ownership and the climate transition.



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