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Vince Cable fires warning shot over UK energy supply chain

PUBLISHED: 08:09 14 May 2014 | UPDATED: 18:14 14 May 2014

Business Secretary Vince Cable

Business Secretary Vince Cable

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Business secretary Vince Cable fired a warning shot to energy giants for not using enough homegrown suppliers, telling Norfolk and Suffolk energy bosses he had hauled an offshore wind operator in after discovering just 20pc of its “content” was from the UK.

Dr Cable was speaking at a House of Commons reception at which the East of England Energy Group announced a step forward for its plans to nurture the skills of the local workforce, announcing the doors of a training centre will open later this year.

The long-awaited EPISCentre project will finally get off the ground from Minerva House in Gorleston, while funding is secured for the more permanent £11m warehouse.

Addressing about 200 people at the reception in Westminster, Dr Cable said the government realised that it had a role to play in making the energy sector flourish, including creating a long term industrial strategy.

He said: “I won’t mention their name, but I had to call in one of the big offshore wind operators when I discovered that their UK content was about 20pc. The company assured me they couldn’t find firms in the UK with the relevant expertise, but admittedly they hadn’t tried. They are now trying and the purpose of the industrial strategy is to work with them.”

Communities secretary Eric Pickles, who also spoke to the business leaders in London, said that too many energy sector employers from the area had to travel as far afield as America for skills. He said the EPISCentre would increase the potential for local people to get the jobs.

Celia Anderson, EEEGR executive director who is heading the project, said the temporary site would be in place until the flagship building was complete,

While Blair Ainslie, Skills for Energy chairman, who is also managing director of Great Yarmouth energy firm Seajacks, said the project would encourage international windpower, gas and new nuclear companies to think about investing in the region.

He said: “EPISCentre is a project of national significance but the emphasis is on helping local people into local jobs in an industry with a major and long-term future in this region.”

The new warehouse, which will have industrial equipment to support training, is expected to open early next year.

Seb Duncan, director for resources, governance and growth at Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said the use of the council-owned Minerva House would enable the EPISCentre to get off the ground more quickly, with none of the risks associated with constructing a new building.

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