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Key partners in offshore wind

Posted By Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive, RenewableUK, 26 February 2018

2018 is a critical year for the offshore wind industry. We’re working hard with Government to secure a transformative sector deal which will set a long-term framework for the years of growth ahead. We’re determined to ensure that the UK fully reaps the benefits of its pole position as the largest offshore wind market and the home of a world-beating industry which exports globally.

When the eight projects currently under construction in UK waters go fully operational, we will have installed almost 10GW of offshore wind capacity, maintaining our global lead. In the midst of this delivery, over 2,500 people will be travelling to Manchester in June for the world’s largest offshore wind event, with over 150 exhibitors - Global Offshore Wind 2018.

We’re partnering with five leading companies to deliver this event. I’m very pleased to announce that our Strategic Event Partners for Global Offshore Wind 2018 are Innogy, MHI Vestas, ORE Catapult, ScottishPower Renewables and Statoil. We’re working with them to develop a programme which will maximise opportunities to secure new business and keep delegates ahead of the curve on the latest innovations in our sector, not just on turbine technology and further cost reduction but also on developments in grid and energy systems.

Our industry’s senior figures will meet with politicians, senior Government officials and colleagues to look ahead to our next opportunities. Delegations from Europe, USA, China, Taiwan and other emerging markets will also be there to learn from the UK’s experiences. We’ll be highlighting the supply chain and skills investments being made around our coastline, showing how we’re transforming parts of the country where jobs and investment are needed most.

New features include a Share Fair Stage, highlighting the latest opportunities in global markets, and an Innovation Theatre which gives delegates an opportunity to ask leading industry figures about the latest technology.

Global Offshore Wind 2018 takes place on 19th-20th June at Manchester Central. We’re looking forward to seeing you there. If you have an interest in this dynamic sector, you’ll know already that you can’t afford to miss this event.

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Breakthrough 2017: Reframing Energy Policy

Posted By Luke Clark, 10 January 2018

2017 has indisputably been the year of clean, renewable power. Low carbon overall generated a majority of the UK’s electricity for the first time ever and wind generated more than coal plants on more than 75% of days last year and proved itself as the low cost option for our future power system. September’s auction results showed just how low the costs of mainstream renewable technologies have fallen, with offshore wind – previously seen as the outlier for low carbon technologies – halving costs and coming in cheaper than new nuclear and gas plants at £57.50 per MWh.


The stunning result for offshore wind has helped to reframe the debate about renewables more widely and, in particular, how the UK can take advantage of our cheapest option for new power capacity – onshore wind. Following very difficult years for the sector, we begin 2018 with a new recognition from Government that, as BEIS Minister Claire Perry said in November, “onshore wind is absolutely part of the future”. Industry has much to do to ensure new projects can get to market and RenewableUK is working with our members to make this a reality.


For marine renewables, 2017 brought more mixed results. The Hendry Review concluded that tidal lagoons can deliver a secure supply of energy for a price which is competitive in the long-term. But as the anniversary of the Hendry Review approaches we are still waiting for the Government’s response and a decision to take forward this world-leading project. The wider wave and tidal stream sector is continuing to innovate and bring forward new technologies to deliver the broad range of low carbon technologies we need for our future power mix. Last year the MeyGen project in the Pentland Firth delivered the world’s first commercial scale tidal array and Scotrenewables’s tidal turbine smashed the record for generating one gigawatt hour of power in testing at EMEC in Orkney.


The ambition of the sector isn’t matched, however, by the policy framework. Government is starting to recognise the need for new ways to support innovative technologies and Energy Minister Richard Harrington has said that Government is examining industry’s Innovation Power Purchase Agreement proposal. We know that the sector needs a robust evidence base and in the coming months, the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and RenewableUK are producing a new study on the potential for cost reduction, UK exports and cuts in emissions from the marine renewables.


Innovation in 2017 wasn’t confined to wave and tidal energy; October saw Statoil and Masdar’s Hywind Scotland, the world’s first floating offshore wind farm, beginning to deliver electricity to the grid, and in May the world’s largest turbines, the MHI Vestas V164-8.0MW, started turning at Ørsted’s Burbo Bank Extension. The Queen’s visit to the Siemens Gamesa blade factory in Hull last November was a powerful signal of how renewables, and the UK industries we have built up, are now a part of the new energy mainstream.


In 2018, we want to go further still in building an energy system fit for the future – and the UK supply chains to deliver it. The consultation on our Smart Power Future and the launch of the £246 million Faraday Challenge to support innovation in batteries and storage were clear signals that the Government recognises the direction of travel for our power system. Last year RenewableUK joined forces with a range of energy bodies to launch the Smart Power Industries Alliance to look beyond individual technologies and take a whole system view of a renewables-dominated power mix.


We ended 2017 with new projections from Government that underline the move to a low carbon mix with renewables as the main source of energy. Just as 2017 marked the crossover point where we proved our case on costs, so 2018 will mark the moment we begin to reshape the power system to seize fully the opportunities of a clean energy future: reduced electricity bills, secure power supplies and more productive industries and high-value jobs across the UK.

Tags:  CfD  Innovation  Offshore Wind  Onshore Wind  Smart Energy  Tidal  Wave 

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Deeper Waters Require Deeper Insight

Posted By Maf Smith, 09 November 2017

The world of floating offshore is moving very fast. Only last month Nicola Sturgeon was in the air above the Hywind Scotland wind farm, tweeting to her thousands of followers about this world first for Scotland.

She was there as the guest of Statoil and Masdar, our event partners in Floating Offshore Wind UK 2017, or #FOWUK17 for short. #FOWUK17 is the UK’s first event dedicated to floating offshore wind and is happening next week in Glasgow.

As Statoil and Masdar have shown, floating wind has come of age. Through being there at the beginning, the UK has the opportunity to benefit as a worldwide market opens up. Floating offshore wind brings into play areas of the sea unsuitable for fixed offshore wind farms. It also offers new supply chain opportunities for companies active in the oil and gas sector.

This week industry is celebrating its achievements as part of Offshore Wind Week. At events in the Westminster and Scottish Parliaments we have been celebrating the supply chain and apprentice success stories which are spread around our coastline. Next week we will follow that up with a discussion on the next generation of offshore wind.

With the cost of fixed offshore wind falling rapidly, floating now stands at a critical point. It can benefit from the rapid developments in turbine technology and experience of construction and O&M from fixed offshore wind. Floating wind also offers the opportunity for onshore construction, and use of cheaper vessels which will help drive down cost. Most critical, by moving further offshore, we can tap into a larger resource. 80% of Europe’s usable offshore wind resource is out at water depths greater than 60 metres. That resource would be enough to support up to 4,000GW of floating offshore. In the US and Asia the bulk of the resource is also out in deep waters so the possible market is vast.

If the UK is to develop expertise in floating offshore we must push on quickly. Following on from Hywind Scotland, focus turns to the Kincardine and Dounreay Tri projects. Both of these have plans for significant involvement of Scottish expertise, with ports and yards around the Scottish coastline expected to benefit from manufacture, assembly, construction and operation. These projects are not alone though, with developers now active in France, Portugal, the USA and Japan.

The UK has traditionally excelled in learning at home and then selling this expertise abroad. Developing a successful floating wind sector in the UK will not likely lead to UK yards being busy constructing spars or platforms for far off wind farms, but will mean that it is UK engineers designing, installing and operating these sites. If you think this vision is far-fetched then look to oil and gas which has the blueprint for how this is done. Then cross-check who is leading effort in floating offshore wind? You’ll see that floating offshore is the crossover point for much of the oil and gas supply chain looking to move into renewables.

The next year will be a critical time for floating offshore wind. We need the backing of Government so that early learning is not lost, but used to embed expertise within UK companies and suppliers. Then as offshore continues its growth around the world, countries will look to the UK for expertise on how we deploy this cutting-edge technology. At that point, turbines will be installed using a range of foundations and platform types suitable for deployment in different locations across the globe and floating offshore wind will have come of age. And for the UK it means we maintain our lead in offshore wind, and our competitive edge around the world.

Sounds good right? If you’re interested in being part of this global movement then you should join us in Glasgow to talk floating offshore wind at #FOWUK17.


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Tags:  Floating Offshore Wind #FOWU17 #OWW17 

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Grounds For Optimism

Posted By, 23 October 2017

By Rebecca Williams, Policy Manager, RenewableUK

Last week was a big week for the renewable energy sector. On Wednesday the UK Government recommitted £557 million for offshore wind and other renewables, and confirmed that the next Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction round would take place in 2019. On Thursday, the Government launched its eagerly-awaited Clean Growth Strategy (formerly known both as the Emissions Reduction Plan and the Clean Growth Plan). And on Friday the National Infrastructure Commission published its interim assessment on UK infrastructure.  Now we’ve all had chance to grab a cuppa and digest these documents, we thought it was time to reflect on what the plan means for our industry.  

      1. The Government is starting to own the progress it has made on decarbonising the UK economy

Firstly, as several of the energy commentariat have noted, it’s hard to remember a UK Government being so forthright about its record on the low carbon economy. Claire Perry’s speech at the launch of the strategy was clear; focussing on clean growth as a win-win situation which will enable the UK to drive economic growth, create highly skilled jobs around the country, and cut the cost of energy. The Prime Ministerial forward to the document states that there is no conflict between creating an economy that works for everyone and seizing the opportunities brought about by the global low carbon transition. This public endorsement represents a huge and very welcome step forward in the UK Government’s position.  

      2. £557 million on offer for less-established technologies

Back in 2015 the UK Government committed £730 million for less-established technologies to be spread over three CfD auctions this Parliament, and stated an ambition to build up to 10GW of offshore wind by 2020 as long as the technology became cost competitive. Fast forward two years and the industry has slashed its strike prices by a record 50%, as well as meeting the Government’s levelised cost of energy reduction target four years early.   Hard graft combined with innovation on technology throughout the supply chain has got us to this point. Turbines today are twenty times more powerful and are far more efficient than they were when the first one was installed. Foundations can be constructed in a wider range of sites at a lower cost than ever before – for example, suction bucket foundations are enabling projects to save costs and time. More effective operations and maintenance, combined with local supply chains create further efficiencies. Wednesday’s announcement reaffirming the budget for less-established technologies, detailing the timing of the next auction round, and committing to work on the development of a sector deal for offshore wind, will allow industry to deliver the UK Government’s ambition and then some. Not only will it mean cheap, clean, homegrown energy for the UK, but it will also means continued growth right across the country. This means real, high-value jobs for workers in what were previously some of the UK’s most economically deprived communities. It was great to see island wind included too, as this will allow much-needed projects to go ahead in places where they have strong community support.

     3. The Government sees a role for wave and tidal if the sector can get its costs down

Since the CfD minima was removed for wave and tidal it’s been difficult to get a sense of where the Government is in relation to the marine energy sector. Last week we saw a welcome recognition of the potential role for wave and tidal energy ‘in the long-term decarbonisation of the UK’ if these technologies can “demonstrate how they can compete with other forms of generation’. In her speech at the launch of the strategy, Claire Perry also set out a three-stage “innovation test” which technologies must be able to prove they meet if they are to be considered for public support:

  • Cost reduction pathway

  • Competitive advantage

  • Maximum carbon emissions reduction


Demonstrating how we meet these criteria will be the key challenge for the sector. RenewableUK and our members have already been focusing on the cost reduction pathway and competitive advantage angles, and we will ensure that we emphasise our emissions reduction potential in response to the strategy.

     4. There is more work to do to make the case for onshore wind

It was disappointing that there was no further news on onshore wind against the otherwise very positive backdrop of the week. We’ve been hearing warmer words from the Government on this issue, especially at the Conservative conference, and it is clear that the mood music on this issue is changing. But it would appear not quite quickly enough for inclusion in the strategy. As we look towards the publication of the Helm Review, the cost of generating technologies will continue to be the topic du jour. When the Government announced the review, it said that its ambition is for the UK to have the lowest energy costs in Europe.  If you want the very cheapest power, look no further than onshore wind - something the National Infrastructure Commission was keen to remind us of in its report on Friday. RenewableUK will continue to build on this narrative, and there will be ongoing opportunities for us to stress how cheap, low-carbon, onshore wind can benefit UK consumers.  Our case is clear - onshore wind has been excluded from competitive auctions for more than two and a half years. It should be allowed the freedom to compete against other technologies on a level playing field, and demonstrate how much further its costs have fallen. Restricting competition is not a policy most Conservatives would want to be associated with.  Ideologically, the idea of a free and fair auction which drives down costs for bill payers is one which would naturally appeal to the majority of Conservative MPs and voters.

Although it’s too early as yet to herald the return of onshore wind, there are signs of a thaw, and on top of all the positive announcements we’ve had over the past few weeks, the decisive shift in the way Ministers are talking publicly about the vital importance of renewables, we can be optimistic that a door that once looked firmly closed is starting to look slightly ajar, so we have everything to play for in the months ahead. 


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Changing priorities in the UK’s energy mix

Posted By Luke Clark, 04 October 2017

Since the announcement last Monday that the cost of new offshore wind farms has fallen by nearly 50% in just over two years, the debate over the implications of this spectacular reduction has played out in Parliament, in the newspapers and across social media. This has largely pitted different power sources against each other in a zero-sum game. The offshore wind industry, however, has always supported the idea of an energy mix of various generation technologies in the UK to meet the challenge of providing secure, affordable and clean energy to consumers.

We have argued that a mix of technologies is needed because each technology has different characteristics. Wind power, of course, requires the wind to blow in order to generate electricity. Off the UK’s coasts, the winds are stronger and steadier meaning we can generate power at scale and do it at low cost. We have always supported new nuclear power as part of the energy mix. Nuclear power stations can generate huge amounts of low-carbon power but they cannot be ramped up or turned down quickly to match changes in demand. We believe the mix should also include onshore wind as it’s the cheapest source of new power, as well as innovative technologies like wave and tidal energy.

However, the mix isn’t only about generation technologies. There is a slew of new technologies coming forward to help the grid manage supply and demand – batteries are just one example, alongside smart appliances, electric vehicles and potentially revolutionary algorithms from tech companies like Google’s DeepMind. So we need a mix of technologies to ensure that we meet demand at all times, and do so cheaply while also cutting polluting emissions.

Last month’s astounding announcement showed that offshore wind can produce power for under 6p per kilowatt hour – lower than the cost of new nuclear and new gas plants. That doesn’t change the need for an energy mix, but it does change how we think about the costs of the choices we make in building that mix.

We shouldn’t be bashful about the scale of the offshore wind industry’s achievement in bringing down the cost of this technology, which is still a relatively new kid on the block in energy terms. A halving of technology costs in such a short space of time is simply not something we normally see in infrastructure. You might see it in consumer electronics or telecoms but certainly not in other large infrastructure projects.

And the offshore wind industry has proven it can deliver at scale. Since 2010 we’ve built over 5,000 megawatts of new offshore wind capacity, and we’re bringing investment of over £20 billion to our country over the course of this decade. These projects have delivered new power capacity on time, and alongside the turbines, we’ve built a world-class domestic supply chain based in coastal communities across the UK. Former fishermen have become captains of offshore wind service vessels and ex-North Sea oil workers have become wind turbine technicians. If there is an industry with a better record of delivering multi-billion-pound energy infrastructure projects, I’d like to see it.

By Luke Clark, Head of Public Affairs, RenewableUK

This article first appeared in BusinessGreen.

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