The recent signing of the Paris Agreement commits the world to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C this century. This unique and ambitious accord puts the focus on each country’s collective ability to wean itself off our traditional reliance on fossil fuels. The agreement also comes into force this Friday, which is good timing since the wind industry is hosting its annual Offshore Wind Week around the country. The week is designed to show that the offshore wind industry is ready to lend a hand (or blade) to ensure the UK can power its future in an economic and sustainable way.
In the space of only a few years, offshore wind has made great strides forward. In the UK, turbines at sea now provide over 5% of all our electricity. On top of that, everything that is currently being built in British waters will get us up to 10% by 2020. That’s the equivalent of around eight million homes.
By any standard, that’s a success story. Offshore wind is still a developing industry, but we are already in a position to benefit from exporting our years of expertise abroad. In Europe, the major market outside the UK is Germany, which is home to 30% of the continent’s offshore capacity. China and the USA also have plans to make serious inroads into the market, with the latter having recently built its first wind farm off the coast of New Jersey.
China currently has around one fifth of the UK’s offshore wind capacity, but its plans are to expand to a massive 30 gigawatts over the next decade (the UK currently leads the world with five gigawatts). There has already been progress on establishing a relationship between our two countries to develop Chinese offshore wind. In July, RenewableUK and the UK Government helped bring a delegation of senior figures from China to the UK to learn about our industry. Last month we took a group of UK companies to China to do business.
Our analysis shows that UK companies are already winning a substantial amount of work to provide offshore wind services on foreign projects, and that there is a huge amount to come. British companies, from the very small to large, are being called on to provide essential services, such as supporting construction work, or installing cables.
This is merely a snapshot into what we could be exporting, but it tells a simple story: the size of the prize is enormous. Offshore wind is currently a European market with outposts abroad. It is well on its way to becoming a truly global market capable of competing against all other forms of energy generation. Britain is in an enviable position to reap the economic benefits of this growing technology.
This blog first appeared in The Grimsby Telegraph.