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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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Now is the moment for onshore wind

Posted By Hugh McNeal, 01 July 2016
In the light of the referendum result, it’s certainly tempting in these unprecedented times, in the period of uncertainty and of market volatility since the vote, to focus only on the challenges ahead, on the difficulties we know we will face over the coming weeks and months. 

Energy companies, National Grid and energy policy experts are starting to give voice to what’s at stake in terms of investment, jobs and consumer bills, if we lose access to the European Energy Market. In public and private the fears are very real, the stakes very high.

But it is precisely now, at this moment which is so unpredictable and uncertain, that we should reflect both on what we can still offer Britain in the future; cheap, home grown, low-carbon sources of electricity, and large scale capital investment at a time when we know we will really need it.

We are not expensive - we are cheap.  We are not inefficient subsidy junkies but innovators, market disruptors, the risk takers on which a dynamic economy depends, investing in energy storage, developing new business models, driving change, creating jobs. We are not alone, out of step with the rest of the world, but part of a global investment story which now dominates from China to the United States and from Africa to Europe.

As I have argued recently, onshore wind is now the cheapest form of large scale, new electricity generation available in Britain. A remarkable position given how so many of our critics attack us on the grounds of cost.  It’s crucial this is known more widely, and equally vital that politics doesn’t get in the way of consumers benefiting from this plentiful, good value resource, and the cost reduction the industry has achieved in recent years. Give us a chance to compete and let us show what we can do.

The Chancellor George Osborne has set out three challenges we all share, whatever our view of last week’s referendum result. First to deliver immediate financial stability, second to resolve our relationship with the EU and third to reassert the values of our country.

How can we, in the renewables sector, contribute to this stability? There remains in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland a pipeline of onshore wind plants that are ready to build now, ready to be deployed, ready to be financed, projects which can generate economic activity and capital investment, projects it makes sense to build given the benefits they will bring and the challenges we now face. This represents hundreds of millions of pounds in capital investment for our economies over the next few years, helping companies all over Britain just at a time when we most need it most.

Surely now is the time to all work together and get building. To achieve this, it is vital that onshore wind retains an ability to compete and to build a route to market, as part of the nations’ balanced and secure energy mix. We need to build on the transformation we have witnessed over recent years, attracting investment and creating jobs to help support Britain. 

The offer is there.  We now need to work to build a broad coalition, one that reaches out across the energy sector, across industry, across all political parties, all parts of Britain and Northern Ireland, to help deliver it.

This blog first appeared in BusinessGreen

Tags:  onshore wind 

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