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Net zero emission goal at risk as less new onshore wind capacity built for second year in a row

14 January 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Luke Clark
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RenewableUK is highlighting new statistics which show that the amount of new onshore wind capacity built last year fell to an even lower level than the year before – mainly because Government policy does not currently support the development of onshore wind farms.  


In 2019, 629 megawatts (MW) were installed in the UK as just 23 projects went operational, of which 4 were in England, 4 in Wales, 6 in Northern Ireland and 9 in Scotland.


This continues the trend seen in 2018, when only 651MW (91 projects) were installed.


The huge drop in new capacity in 2018 followed the record high of 2,683MW installed in 2017, when 343 projects started generating as developers raced to beat the main deadline to qualify for Government support.


22 of the 23 projects which began generating last year had qualified for financial support under the RO, FiT or CfD schemes before they were closed to onshore wind developers. These policies date from the coalition government and are now defunct. The Government’s current policy for onshore wind led to just four new turbines, the 8.2MW Withernwick II wind farm in East Yorkshire, being built last year.


Just 2 onshore wind projects – 3 turbines totalling 1.9MW – received planning approval in England in 2019 and just one new project was submitted into the English planning system, with a capacity of 5MW. No projects were approved or submitted in Wales last year.


In Scotland however, where the Scottish Government supports developing new onshore wind to meet its climate targets, there was a healthy pipeline of new projects, with 556MW (26 projects) consented last year, and 1,969MW (35 projects) submitted into the planning system.


25MW (25 projects) were approved in Northern Ireland and 127MW (52 projects) entered the planning system.


The Government’s advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, advised last year that under a low-cost energy strategy to reach net zero emissions, the UK’s onshore wind capacity could increase from 13 gigawatts (GW) now to 35GW by 2035.

Research published by RenewableUK shows that building this amount of new onshore wind capacity would save an average household £50 a year in 2035 and reduce the cost of electricity by 7%, compared to using more gas, as well as supporting 31,000 jobs.


RenewableUK’s Head of Policy and Regulation Rebecca Williams said: “These figures highlight that the current approach is falling short on delivering renewable energy capacity at the level needed for net zero. This is a flashing red warning light on our net zero dashboard and we urgently need a new strategy from Government.


“Onshore wind is one of the cheapest low carbon technologies in the UK, quick to build, and it’s hugely popular as the Government’s own opinion polls show 78% of people support it. As Ministers get down to work at the start of a new decade, we need to see new policies which support the full range of clean power sources to transform our energy system”.



For further information, please contact:

·              Luke Clark, Head of External Affairs 0207 901 3037 or 07875 704 032

·              Robert Norris, Head of Communications, 0207 901 3013 or 07969 229 913


1.       RenewableUK’s members are building our future energy system, powered by clean electricity. We bring them together to deliver that future faster; a future which is better for industry, billpayers, and the environment. We support over 400 member companies to ensure increasing amounts of renewable electricity are deployed across the UK and to access export markets all over the world. Our members are business leaders, technology innovators, and expert thinkers from right across industry.

2.    Onshore wind statistics are compiled by RenewableUK and are available to members in our Project Intelligence Hub. Statistics are updated daily, and cover commercial-scale projects of 100kW or larger. 

Installation figures for new onshore wind from 2010 to 2019:
























Number of projects












3.    The Government announced in 2015 that it would close the Renewables Obligation scheme to new onshore wind in 2017. Ministers also barred onshore wind projects from competing in the Contracts for Difference scheme, which uses competitive price auctions to secure new renewable capacity at the lowest cost for consumers. The Feed-in Tariff scheme which supported small-scale wind projects closed last April. 

4.    More information on the independent research commissioned by RenewableUK in 2019 on the economic benefits of onshore wind is available here.

5.    1GW of new onshore wind powers the equivalent of more than 700,000 UK homes a year.

6.    9.1% of Britain’s electricity was generated by onshore wind in 2018 (latest official annual statistics available).

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