UK Offshore Wind Energy Needs Funding, Study Reveals

New research shows that the UK offshore wind program can meet 6% of power needs by 2015 but not without additional Government intervention. The study, “Offshore Wind: At a Crossroads,” which highlights the critical juncture in the UK, was recently released by the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) and Renewables East, the renewable energy agency for the East of England.

At its Offshore Wind Conference in London in early April, BWEA urged the Government to ensure it prioritizes offshore wind in the current Energy Review with measures to overcome the economic gap for offshore wind while maintaining the strong progress being achieved onshore. In both 2004 and 2005 the UK was the only country in the world to build offshore wind farms, the release states, thereby making the country a pioneer in this sector. Currently four working offshore wind farms are located in the UK (Blyth Offshore, North Hoyle, Scroby Sands and Kentish Flats) and produce 213 megawatts (MW) of electricity, the equivalent of powering around 135,000 UK homes, with a fifth, the 90 MW Barrow project, currently undergoing final commissioning. Without additional support for offshore wind farms, however, the opportunity for the UK to be a world leader could be missed. “Offshore Wind: At a Crossroads” reports on interviews with more than 30 companies showing that without additional support for the sector only 2,000 MW of offshore wind capacity will be installed in UK waters by 2015, which is only 25% of what is possible over the next ten years. The major reason cited for the difference between what is possible and what is expected is the gap between the current costs of developing offshore wind and the revenues available to developers through the current Renewables Obligation. “Renewables East is directly investing over GBP 500,000 [USD$870,000] of support into these companies. We are confident that Government will support our aspirations to deliver offshore wind,” said James Beal, Managing Director of Renewable East. The report examines what level of new offshore capacity could be built if a new policy impetus was put in place by Government. With additional financial support there could be a four-fold increase in the amount of offshore wind capacity that can be delivered in UK waters. The report identifies that the industry could deliver some 8,000 MW of offshore wind capacity by 2015. This amount of development is equivalent to 6% of the UK electricity supply, generating 24.5 terawatt hours (TWh) that is equivalent to meeting the annual electricity needs of more than 5 million homes. It represents GBP 10 billion [USD$ 17 billion] of investment and prevents the emissions of 10-20 million tons of carbon dioxide. Commenting on the new research, Marcus Rand, Chief Executive BWEA said: “Government must use the ongoing Energy Review to put in place a new policy impetus for offshore wind. With this in place, offshore wind can join its sister technology onshore wind in the delivery of the bulk of the Government’s 20% by 2020 renewable aspirations.”
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