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New UK government plans to boost offshore wind, including floating turbines
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the government will make the UK the world leader in wind energy – creating jobs, slashing carbon emissions and boosting exports at the same time – as part of its plans to ‘build back greener’ after the current COVID crisis.
Speaking last month, Johnson and Business and Energy Secretary Alok Sharma spoke mainly of increasing their target for offshore wind, with a new emphasis on floating turbines. The government said that the commitments made are the first stage of a ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution which will be set out fully later this year.
Some £160mn is to be made available to upgrade ports and infrastructure across communities such as in Teesside and Humber in Northern England, and Scotland and Wales, to hugely increase offshore wind capacity. Already the largest in the world at around
10 GW of capacity, offshore wind currently meets around 10% of total UK electricity demand.
This new investment will see around 2,000 construction jobs created and will enable the sector to support up to 60,000 jobs directly and indirectly by 2030 in ports, factories and supply chains, manufacturing next-generation of offshore wind turbines, says the government. Johnson also set out further commitments, including:
Confirming that offshore wind will produce more than enough electricity to power every home in the country by 2030, based on current electricity usage, and boosting the government’s previous 30 GW target to 40 GW of capacity.
Creating a new target for floating offshore wind to deliver 1 GW of energy by 2030, over 15 times the current volume worldwide, ensuring that the UK remains at the forefront of the next generation of clean energy.
Setting a target to support up to double the capacity of renewable energy in the next Contracts for Difference auction, which will open in late 2021.
Johnson said: ‘Now, as we build back better we must build back greener. So we are committing to new ambitious targets and investment into wind power to accelerate our progress towards net zero emissions by 2050.
The government also addressed criticism that the offshore wind industry is failing to use enough UK companies. It suggested that new requirements on supporting UK manufacturers in government-backed renewables projects will mean the industry can reach its target of 60% of offshore wind farm content coming from the UK.
The government said its plan for renewable energy forms part of wider efforts to ensure the UK meets its legally binding target to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Over the past decade, the UK has cut carbon emissions by more than any similar developed country. In 2019, UK emissions were 42% lower than in 1990, while the economy grew by 72% over the same period.
The announcement was widely welcomed, with RenewableUK’s Head of Policy and Regulation, Rebecca Williams, seizing on the new emphasis on floating turbines: ‘The Prime Minister’s commitment to floating wind shone through in his landmark speech yesterday. Our world-leading floating wind sector is on the brink of commercialisation, which will unlock our potential to create thousands of jobs and attract billions in new investment – especially to parts of the country which need levelling up most.’
RenewableUK believes that the current 30 MW of floating wind power capacity, with a further
150 MW in the pipeline off Scotland and Wales, can be increased to 1–2 GW by 2030, and to 20 GW by 2050.
It was left to the trade unions to take a critical tack. Sue Ferns, Senior Deputy General Secretary at Prospect, said: ‘The Prime Minister’s commitment to kickstarting the green jobs revolution is welcome but we have heard this rhetoric before and the reality has never quite matched up. If the Prime Minister’s plan for wind is to have anywhere near the promised impact on jobs then it needs a credible plan for a functional UK supply chain. Offshoring jobs as well as power would be a wasted opportunity.’