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Fri, 27 November 2020

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Offshore wind makes both environmental and economic sense

Offshore wind makes both environmental and economic sense

Credit: PA Images

3 min read

We need clear, sustained government backing to cement our position as the world leader in offshore wind.

Britain is set to become, in the Prime Minister’s words, the “Saudi Arabia of wind power”.

As an island nation, it’s only logical that we seek to harness the strong winds that blow across our seas to produce cheap, clean energy.

Cementing our position as the world leader in offshore wind not only helps us to decarbonise our energy sector, but also offers economic benefits which could be spread across the country, helping us to level up.

Offshore wind has become a vital part of our energy mix, with almost two thousand turbines capturing wind out at sea and bringing the energy onshore.

However, if we are to meet our legally-binding 2050 net zero target, offshore wind capacity must be ramped up significantly as we phase out the use of coal and reduce our dependence on natural gas.

We cannot end the UK’s contribution to climate change without doing so.

The benefits of offshore wind go well beyond climate.

There are immediate economic rewards that offshore wind provides.

Offshore wind capacity must be ramped up significantly as we phase out the use of coal and reduce our dependence on natural gas.

For instance, thanks to the Contracts for Difference (CfD) auctions set up by the coalition government, and the innovation and competition they’ve spurred across the sector, new offshore wind projects now offer consumers and businesses cheaper electricity than new gas-fired power stations.

There are economic gains in the supply chain too. Renewable energy companies have invested £4 billion and employed over 2,000 people since March.

The Prime Minister’s very welcome party conference announcement of new funding for offshore wind factories and port infrastructure upgrades will support additional jobs.

We need to maintain momentum by having bigger CfD auctions throughout this decade to meet our target of 40GW of offshore wind by 2030. Should the Government choose to build out the full pipeline of ‘shovel ready’ offshore wind projects, it could unlock a further £20 billion in private investment and create 15,400 jobs in initial construction alone.

This is an industry which is also rapidly growing globally.

According to the International Energy Agency, the offshore wind market grew nearly 30% per year between 2010 and 2018, with countries turning towards wind as a mainstay for future energy supply.

By building on our existing leadership in this market and growing the network of renewable energy trade advisers in the Department for International Trade, we can export our technology and expertise internationally as more countries commit to net zero.

That’s why we need clear, sustained government backing for the British offshore wind industry.

This should include a long-term strategy for allocating sites for new wind farms in the increasingly congested North Sea, and for building an efficient network of transmission cables to bring the power back onshore.

There should also be investment in companion technologies such as electrolysers, which can be combined with wind power to create green hydrogen from water, generating additional economic value from this renewable technology and unlocking the nascent hydrogen economy and all the possibilities it offers.

Offshore wind makes both environmental and economic sense.

That is why it is now central to this Government’s green economic recovery and wider levelling up agenda.

It provides a route to bringing more industrial opportunities to these shores and to provide highly skilled, well-paid work that people can be proud of.

 

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