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Offshore wind partnership ‘to provide a third of UK electricity by 2030’

The new joint government-industry Offshore Wind Sector Deal will result in offshore wind generating more than 30% of British electricity by 2030, according to Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry announcing the agreement last month. 

If it succeeds, then more electricity will be generated from renewables than from fossil fuels, and 70% of British electricity will be sourced from low carbon sources by 2030. 

Backed by UK renewables companies, this the tenth sector deal from the government’s modern Industrial Strategy should mark a revolution in the offshore wind industry, which 20 years ago was only in its infancy, including the number of jobs tripling to 27,000 by 2030, says the government. 

The main mechanism will be the provision of forward visibility of future Contracts for Difference rounds, with support of up to £557mn, says the deal document. The next allocation round is planned to open by May of this year, with subsequent auctions around two years thereafter. These auctions will deliver 1–2 GW of new offshore wind capacity each year in the 2020s, says the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. 

The deal will also, says the government: 
• increase the sector target for the amount of UK content in homegrown offshore wind projects to 60%; 
• spearhead a new £250mn Offshore Wind Growth Partnership to make sure that UK companies continue to be competitive in the next generation of innovations; 
• boost global exports fivefold to £2.6bn per year by 2030; 
• reduce the cost of projects in the 2020s and overall system costs; and 
• see Crown Estate release new seabed land from 2019 for new offshore wind developments. In addition, the deal will: 
• challenge the sector to more than double the number of women entering the industry to at least 33% by 2030, with the ambition of reaching 40%; and 
• create an Offshore Energy Passport, to be recognised outside of the UK, so that offshore wind workers will be able to transfer their skills and expertise to other offshore renewable and oil and gas industries. 

Last, the government will provide over £4mn for British business to share expertise globally and open new markets for UK industry through a technical assistance programme to help overseas countries skip coal power and develop their own offshore wind projects. 

The Co-Chair of the Offshore Wind Industry Council, Ørsted UK’s Benj Sykes, said: ‘Now that we’ve sealed this transformative deal with our partners in government, as a key part of the UK’s Industrial Strategy, offshore wind is set to take its place at the heart of our low carbon, affordable and reliable electricity system of the future.’ 

Sykes continued: ‘This relentlessly innovative sector is revitalising parts of the country which have never seen opportunities like this for years, especially coastal communities from Wick in northern Scotland to the Isle of Wight, and from Barrow-in-Furness to the Humber. Companies are burgeoning in clusters, creating new centres of excellence in this clean growth boom. The Sector Deal will ensure that even more of these companies win work not only here, but around the world in a global offshore wind market set to be worth £30bn a year by 2030.’ 

But is the target for offshore wind power high enough? No, says a new briefing, Filling the Energy Gap, from environment group Greenpeace, suggesting that the government’s new nuclear reactor programme appears unlikely to produce more than one new power station by 2030, leading to ‘a huge shortfall in the UK’s projected energy capacity in the second half of the next decade.’ This needs to be filled with low carbon sources in order for the UK to meet its climate targets. 

The briefing concludes that offshore wind will need to be producing at least 45 GW by 2030, and possibly more, depending on whether the government also supports more solar and onshore wind. The current target is 30GW by the same date. 

John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, said: ‘Renewable power now presents the best opportunity for cheaper, cleaner and faster decarbonisation. Wind and solar must be tripled between now and 2030, with offshore wind the future backbone of the UK’s energy system.’ 

One negative note on employment matters was struck by trade union Prospect. Senior Deputy General Secretary Sue Ferns said: ‘Prospect welcomes that a sector deal has been reached for this important industry. In particular we welcome the commitments to diversity in the workplace, and to creating an Offshore Energy Passport. It is disappointing, however, that the government hasn’t recognised the vital role that trade unions will play in the delivery and development of a modern energy industry, especially when it comes to safety.’ 

‘Overall we have a good record of safety in traditional generation – it would be a huge retrograde step if the considerations which have brought that about were forgotten,’ Ferns concluded.

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