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UK has to build ‘three new turbines every two days’ to meet 2030 wind targets

Wind turbines.

Nearly half of the UK offshore wind projects needed to reach 2030 net zero targets are only at the concept stage, according to new research.

Research from trade body Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) shows the UK currently produces 12 GW of energy from offshore wind and is at risk of missing government targets of 50 GW by 2030.

Due to delays in government planning and approval processes, these projects can take up to 13 years (with some taking even longer).

Acceleration requires three new turbines every two days, OEUK said, previewing its economic report this week.

It comes soon after Boris Johnson expressed the importance of offshore wind to the UK’s future energy supplies, saying on Thursday “Offshore wind is now nine times cheaper than gas.”

Where are these figures coming from?

These figures will be in OEUK’s economic report: ‘Managing UK Energy Security in Troubled Times’, which will be made available on the 7th of September.

The report is said to take a detailed look at the UK’s energy security landscape, including gas, oil, and offshore wind, pointing our new government to the nation’s key strengths and vulnerabilities.

Currently, the UK gets 19% of its total energy as electricity, however, as we move towards electric vehicles replacing petrol and diesel ones, and heat pumps replacing domestic boilers, this demand is set to increase to 50% by 2035.

The oil and gas production companies are also those who are investing in renewable energies, delivering what OEUK describes as “critical supply chain work needed to build offshore wind projects.”

The 2,500 offshore turbines in the UK only provide 12%  of the nation’s electricity demands, 15% of our electricity comes from nuclear power and 40% of our power comes from gas, showing the work that needs to be done to reach net zero goals.

In April, however, Boris Johnson’s British Energy Security Strategy announced plans to make the UK “the Saudi Arabia of wind power” with a four-fold expansion of offshore wind by 2030.

The UK already has the world’s second-largest installed offshore wind capacity, at around 12 GW. The strategy aims to increase it to 50 GW by 2030, of which at least a tenth is to take the form of floating wind farms.

Key measures for UK offshore wind

This capacity would be enough to power every home in Britain and would support the UK target of reaching carbon neutrality or ‘net zero’ by 2050.

Domestic offshore wind also has the potential to increase the nation’s energy security, cut import fees and reduce the risk of energy shortages and rationing during future crises.

Offshore wind also has the potential to cut UK emissions by providing power to North Sea oil and gas platforms.

However, to meet these goals, the UK will need to install an estimated 3,200 new, and much larger, wind turbines by 2030, which works out to be roughly three new turbines every two days.

The upcoming OEUK report says this is an achievable target, under the condition the government removes regulatory and planning delays.

This would mean scrapping the often four-year waiting period to gain planning consent for new projects.

Recommendations

The Economic Report recommends UK’s new government to implement four key measures from its Energy Security Strategy to boost the rate of offshore wind installations. These are:

  • Cut planning consent times from four years to one
  • Streamline the Environmental Assessment process
  • Cut red tape using the government’s Offshore Wind Acceleration Task Force
  • Create a fast-track planning process for non-controversial projects

Lead author of OEUK’s Economic Report, Ross Dornan, said: “As of late August, OEUK knew of around 40 projects planned through to 2030 at various stages of the development cycle.

“Based on this pipeline, the Energy Security Strategy target is potentially achievable, but it is important to understand the associated project uncertainties and risks.

OEUK’s Market Intelligence Manager Ross Dornan. Photo by Newsline Media

“This scale of installation is very ambitious, and it will require significant improvements to the regulatory and permitting process.

“Of the potential capacity additions before 2030, 46% (almost 18.5 GW) is only at concept stage,

“History shows that it takes around 13 years to progress from concept and application stage through to operations.

“This means that the UK’s 50 GW ambitions will only be achieved if this can be sped up.”

Skills and expertise key to low-carbon energy solutions

Dornan said that the UK’s offshore industry could achieve many of the government’s targets – but only if those changes were introduced fast. “Our sector is showing how its vital skills and expertise can drive the low-carbon energy and emissions solutions needed for the future.

“We’re seeing that in action in the North Sea, through the start-up of power generation at the Seagreen offshore wind project and the beginning of construction of the Dogger Bank project – two of the world’s largest offshore wind farms which are both being led by companies with an oil and gas production heritage.

“As we have learned over the last year, energy is a precious resource which must be properly managed, in the short and long term.

“Our sector has many of the answers and through constructive work with governments and regulators, we can boost the UK economy, cut emissions, secure jobs and most important, heat and power homes and industries with energy produced here, for decades to come.”

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