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New evidence that cheap wind energy is helping consumers

Posted By Rebecca Williams, Policy Manager, 27 June 2017

So it’s confirmed – you can have your cake and eat it - at least in terms of your energy bill. Last week uSwitch published figures which show that consumers can save money and clean up their electricity supply at the same time. It’s great to have this on the record, as there’s still a misconception among some bill payers that doing the right thing could hurt their wallets. uSwitch’s research shows that the 24 cheapest renewable energy tariffs are less expensive than the average standard variable tariffs offered by the main electricity suppliers.

The findings come as no surprise to those of us in the renewable energy industry who have seen spectacular reductions in the cost of wind energy in the UK, with onshore wind now the cheapest form of new power bar none. Offshore wind costs have fallen by a third in 4 years and the technology is on course to be cheaper than new nuclear in this summer’s CfD auction. In short, renewable electricity is increasingly the cheapest way to power the UK.

The last few years have also seen the price of clean energy tariffs tumble, with uSwitch’s figures showing that the cheapest renewable energy tariff is now just £8 a year more expensive than the cheapest deal on the market, compared to £110 a year ago. It now costs only 2p a day to go green, compared to the rock bottom deal.

Clean energy is consistently and compellingly popular, with over three quarters of the public saying that they are in favour of power from renewable sources. The fact that renewables- led tariffs are getting closer to the cheapest deals on the market will enable more consumers, who have always supported renewables in principle, to make their energy bills greener in practice. The new figures show that more than a quarter of energy customers are now more likely to choose an environmentally-friendly tariff than they were three years ago. This is having big implications for the retail market – the research reveals that the number of renewable energy deals has increased from 13 to 30 in the last year alone. The word on the street is that we will be seeing the first clean energy tariff from one of the large electricity suppliers any day now. The energy market is backing renewables, and this smart investment is repaying consumers, as well as the UK economy.

(This blog first appeared in BusinessGreen)

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Maria McCaffery secures OBE for taking renewable energy into the mainstream

Posted By Rob Norris, 19 June 2017

 

The happiest of tasks falls to me today - to offer our warmest congratulations to our former Chief Executive Maria McCaffery, who was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to the renewable energy sector.

 

I had the privilege of working closely with Maria, as my stint as Chair of RenewableUK started while she was Chief Executive, and I speak for the whole association when I say how pleased we are to see her award. On a personal level, my time working with Maria was immensely pleasurable. Of course her insights and knowledge proved to be invaluable, but on top of this she possesses a combination of scouse wit, personal integrity and emotional awareness which I wish was more common in the business world. If everyone in industry could cut through in the way she does, we would get a lot more business done.  She is held in high esteem across the industry; And; it was great to see her earlier this month at our biggest event of the year, Offshore Wind Energy 2017 at ExCeL in London, representing James Fisher and Sons, which provides marine and specialist engineering services worldwide.

 

Maria led the sector through a period of unprecedented change – we experienced boom years of extraordinary growth and saw spectacular technical innovation, which sent costs plummeting. It’s no overstatement to say that under her period of leadership, the sector grew up. She took wind energy from the margins, when it was referred to (sometimes pejoratively) as “alternative energy”, into the mainstream, where it has become a main pillar within our modern energy system. When Maria arrived in 2006, wind generated just 1% of UK electricity needs – now it is providing 11%. Onshore wind is now the cheapest source of new power bar none, and offshore wind is set to be cheaper than new nuclear in the upcoming round of CfD auctions. Her record is one of delivery.

 

She oversaw a cultural change too, making RenewableUK more business-focussed, as befits a sector which has gone global. Renewable energy now attracts $290 billion a year in investment worldwide. We are an economic powerhouse, with UK-based companies exporting goods and services to more than 40 countries across six continents. This work is developing further under the dynamic leadership of Hugh McNeal. All of us feel privileged to work for an organisation which is at the cutting edge of the energy sector. We have a great deal more which we are determined to accomplish, and it’s heartening to see good work being given an official seal of recognition. We are all proud of Maria McCaffery OBE.

 

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Orkney - buzzing with marine energy development

Posted By Caroline Bragg, RenewableUK Policy Manager, 21 February 2017

Hoy is a hilly island off the Orkney mainland. The parishes of the island divide it in two – lumping one half together with the island to the south and one with the island to the north. It might seem strange to divide the island this way, but that is before you remember that it was once much easier to sail across a narrow channel to one of the other islands than cross over the hill in the middle.

 

The history of Orkney writes large the advantages of an economy based on water over land. Today, with our globalised and service-based economy driven by the South East of England, it can be hard to imagine the power of regional economies, driven by clever and sustainable uses of natural resources. Yet the world heritage stone circles, burial mounds and settlements on the islands are testament to the Kingdom of Orkney’s expansive and hugely significant prehistoric economy.

 

Regional growth and sustainable use of natural resources are back in mainstream policy thinking, key themes in the Government’s flagship industrial strategy. Officials thinking about how geography defines opportunities for economic growth, new industries, and local communities could do worse than visit the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, as I did this week.

 

The islands are visibly buzzing with marine energy development: Orkney has some of the most powerful waves and tides in the world – sometimes reaching higher than a couple of double-decker buses. The largest tidal device in the world, Scotrenewables’ SR2000 was literally moments away from full commissioning. On Hatson Pier, you can see Tocardo, Wello, Sustainable Marine Energy tidal and wave devices all getting ready for the rough seas. Speaking to the local businesses that serve these projects, such as Green Marine, this season will be their busiest yet. The companies on these small islands are all striving to win a now global race to establish marine energy.

 

“Local supply chain” is a bland way to describe the very colourful businesses that surround marine energy in Orkney. For example, Leask Marine started off doing commercial diving for civil engineering and other sectors. Now, after diving on every one of the 27 devices that has come through EMEC, they’ve built themselves a fabrication yard and are manufacturing standardised components for future marine energy devices, based on the ten years they spent underwater working on the projects of today.  

 

Renewables companies here aren’t just developing wave and tidal technologies. Burgar Hill was one of the first test sites for onshore wind in the UK, when we still led the world in turbine development, and when onshore wind, now our cheapest power generation technology, was considered an expensive alternative. Today, just across from Burgar Hill, sits a wind farm with one of the most efficient turbines leading company ENERCON has ever sold. Orkney’s abundant natural resources mean that it produces 120% of its annual energy demand from renewables. This has made it well placed to innovate. It was a world-leader in energy system management, turning their wind turbines on and off by the second to balance demand and keep the lights on. In 2017, Orkney will be the first place ever to power ferries through hydrogen electrolysis. 

 

Technology innovation and changing markets are fundamentally altering the geography of our energy system and the industries that support it. Instead of being concentrated in oil rigs and large thermal power plants, our energy comes from places, people and projects nearer to us and where we live. Instead of sourcing our power from the North Sea and the Middle East, we are establishing new industrial clusters in Wales, the south west, the Isle of Wight and Solent and the Highlands and Islands. To most people, imagining what the global energy transition might mean for our infrastructure, our regions, and our businesses might look as strange as the parishes of Hoy Island. To the people living in Orkney, it looks perfectly normal. Maybe it’s time for the rest of the UK to look at things the islanders’ way.

 

(This blog first appeared in BusinessGreen)

Tags:  marine energy 

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25 Years of British Wind

Posted By Emma Pinchbeck, Executive Director, RenewableUK, 23 December 2016

This is the festive season in more ways than one. The 21st of December marked the 25th anniversary of the very first commercial wind farm built in the UK, in Cornwall. I’m writing this on the train returning from the birthday party at the site to mark this remarkable achievement. It’s been a moment for celebration and a chance for reflection. 

 

In the small Cornish village of Delabole, the local Edwards family acted as trailblazers for an entire industry when they single-handedly commissioned and completed a 10 turbine project on their own farmland. They learned from existing sites in Denmark, and battled for years to get project financing. The original ten turbine wind farm which stood at Delabole was able to power 2,700 homes. In 2011, its new owner, Good Energy, upgraded the site, replacing the older turbines with just four new ones, which, on a smaller land footprint, can power an estimated 6,200 homes. 

 

This first commercial project has played a symbolic role for the wind industry, along with a central one for the community. Good Energy remains an active participant in local life by, for example, providing discounts on electricity bills and contributing over £10,000 a year to a community fund, which is controlled by a local committee and used to support community initiatives. The committee has allocated grants to a wide range of local community groups and projects, including St Piran’s playschool for an outdoor play area and willow shelter, Delabole Football Club for a new kit, Delabole Allotment Society for new fencing, and the village cricket club for solar PV on the clubhouse roof. Today, Good Energy staff spent the morning delivering birthday cards and presents to villagers, as a thank you for a quarter of a century of support for their local wind farm.

 

To think 25 years has already passed since Delabole was built, and 30 since it was planned, is amazing. On a personal note, it means that the UK’s commercial wind sector and I are almost the same age – we’ve grown up together. The turbines at Delabole were the first steps on the way to the £19 billion British onshore wind sector I now work in.

 

Everything has changed since 1991. Innovation and experience have sent costs plummeting, and have improved technology, faster than anyone could have predicted. 

The turbines originally installed at Delabole had a capacity of 400 kilowatts; in 2016, we’re building onshore wind farms with turbines of 3.45 megawatts apiece: that’s over eight times more powerful than 25 years ago. And progress in offshore wind has been just as spectacular, 8-megawatt machines now being built at the Burbo Bank Extension in Liverpool Bay.

 

It's worth comparing the early days of wind technology to that other great intervention in 1991: the dawn of the World Wide Web in Tim Berners-Lee's laboratory. It's taken some time for the technology to develop - but renewables have exploded into a multi-billion dollar global market, and have the same potential to disrupt the way consumers use power as smart phones have changed the way we communicate. 


In the past 10 years alone, British onshore and offshore wind have gone from supplying 1% of the UK’s electricity to 12% last year. The figures for 2016, coming out soon, will be even greater. Wind is a mainstream energy technology now, and modest estimates expect that it will be generating 20% of the UK’s electricity by 2020. This year, the Government's own numbers highlighted wind as the cheapest form of new power generation in the country. 

Today there is still a strong onshore wind construction pipeline in the UK. This year alone we’ve built 650 megawatts of new capacity and we expect to build at least the same in 2017. That means that onshore wind will soon pass the 10 gigawatt milestone, by which point it will be powering six million British homes.

 

This extraordinary, pioneering technology deserves a strong future in Britain, but recent policy changes have made the environment uncertain. This is a shame, at a time when the global transition to renewable power is now beyond doubt, and when flexible and decentralised energy generation is set to deliver the full potential of other changes to how we use energy in the UK. The government's push for electric vehicles, smart technology, and exciting developments in storage, all benefit from a diverse, decarbonised energy mix. 

 

The progress of onshore wind in this country over the past 25 years is an extraordinary achievement. Today it is a modern British success story, offering cheap, clean electricity to millions of homes, offices and factories. The next 25 years of British wind development have the potential to do even more for the UK, and we must do all we can to support its future. Happy Birthday to Delabole wind farm - and here's to a happy new year for renewables. 

 

(This blog first appeared in BusinessGreen) 

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Yorkshire leads the way in Britain’s industrial regrowth

Posted By RenewableUK Chief Executive Hugh McNeal, 02 December 2016

It’s great to be in Hull. Many of us have been looking forward to the official opening of Siemens’ state of the art offshore wind turbine plant for a long time. It’s the moment when years of hard work by Siemens, working with energetic and tenacious local people, the city council and national government, and many others with the same irrepressible, innovative vision has come to fruition. This is a key part of Britain’s industrial strategy for the future, building on Yorkshire’s proud manufacturing history.    

 

The unprecedented investment of £160 million in a world-class turbine blade production and installation facilities at Alexandra Dock represents a massive stride forward for the UK’s offshore wind industry and for the Humber region. The combined investment from Siemens and Associated British Ports of £310 million in Green Port Hull will create a thousand direct jobs. Seven hundred people have already been recruited, nearly all from the local area. And there will be more jobs to come during the construction phase as well as in the supply chain. The positive effect on local people is wide-ranging - I met a former Asda store manager who now runs a digital media business – he filmed the construction of the Siemens factory. Offshore wind is a rapidly expanding sector touching all parts of the UK’s economy.

 

What’s happening here in East Yorkshire is a prime example of how modern industrial regrowth can happen around Britain. Siemens is one of many trailblazers making investments in the sector right across the UK. In the last few weeks, JDR Cables in Hartlepool announced that it’s won a major contract to design and manufacture subsea power cables for what will be the world’s biggest offshore wind farm, DONG Energy's Hornsea Project One, to be built a hundred and twenty kilometres off the East Yorkshire coast. DONG will have invested £6 billion in the Humber region by the end of the decade.

Just last week in Belfast, Harland and Wolff secured a big deal to supply steel foundations to an offshore wind farm off the Suffolk coast. Last month, MHI Vestas Offshore Wind on the Isle of Wight announced it needs seventy extra workers to manufacture turbine blades. CS Wind at Campbeltown in Scotland is recruiting a hundred and sixty more staff – it will be manufacturing massive turbine towers for Siemens as well as other international companies.

 

These announcements show that offshore wind developers are committed to maximising the amount of locally-made kit in their projects, to ensure that we reap the economic benefits of renewable energy. The offshore wind industry is bringing well over £20 billion in investment to Britain over the course of this decade, creating thousands of new jobs, from apprentices taking their first steps into high-tech, to experienced workers making the transition from the oil and gas sector into renewables. This is happening across the UK, from Liverpool to Lowestoft and from the Isle of Wight to the Isle of Mull, and of course right here in Yorkshire. Given the number of east coast offshore wind farms, and the number of companies already based here, Yorkshire is well-placed to benefit from the renewables revolution. Across the UK similar investments have the power to transform the lives of those who benefit from them, helping to regenerate communities and fulfil potential which might otherwise have gone unrealised.

 

The UK is proud to be the global leader in offshore wind. We’ve been learning by building more offshore wind projects than any other country. We’re exporting our expertise around the world. British companies have already won a hundred and fifteen contracts (worth up to £30 million apiece) for fifty offshore wind projects abroad. There are two hundred and fifty offshore wind farms at the development stage internationally, representing a massive economic and industrial opportunity for the UK. This summer, we worked with the Government to bring a delegation from China here to learn about offshore wind. Then in the autumn, we took a group of UK companies to China to do business. We’re going global. Offshore wind is a great British success story so we should celebrate it, as we are doing today in Hull, because Yorkshire is leading the way.


(This blog first appeared in the Yorkshire Post)

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