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United Kingdom

Offshore alarm tempered

The British Wind Energy Association believes the government's new renewable energy policy leaves little room for an adequate kick start to offshore wind. The price cap on renewables electricity is too low for the more expensive technologies such as offshore wind to enter the market unassisted.

"It's bad news for offshore wind," complains the British Wind Energy Association of the government's new renewables policy (main story). The BWEA believes the new policy leaves little room for an adequate kick start to offshore wind. The £0.043/kWh price cap on renewables electricity is too low for the more expensive technologies such as energy crops and offshore wind to enter the market unassisted, and the Department of Industry's stated intention to "abandon plans for a further NFFO" leaves no prospect of a dedicated "offshore NFFO" round to give the initial impetus needed.

The BWEA's Nick Goodall says: "Achieving cleaner, sustainable generation at the lowest cost to the consumer can not be left to market forces alone. The absence of a short-term replacement for NFFO financial support presents a real threat to establishing an offshore wind energy industry in the UK. The wind industry has been let down by government, who had previously indicated NFFO support for four to eight offshore projects."

More than a dozen development consortia have already invested millions of pounds in good faith, he points out. "Huge volumes of electricity from offshore wind are tantalisingly close, but we could sink this ship for a ha'p'orth of tar."

Not all share this pessimistic view. Dale Vince from the Renewable Energy Company says that offshore wind will come in good time. He also says that an early stampede to offshore could have endangered the future of onshore wind by fuelling public perceptions that turbines on land-with their associated visual impact-were no longer necessary. Meanwhile, the £0.043/kWh price cap that the buy out option effectively imposes is not so far from the price that will allow offshore wind to be developed now. "Given a couple of years I think the market will deliver at that cost."

The government agrees that offshore wind will play an essential role in meeting its 10% renewables target, and is considering "supplementary support" for the more expensive technologies. It is consulting the renewable energy industry on how the £50 million pot of money from the Climate Change Levy proceeds could be used. Yet the BWEA is doubtful that this fund-which is to be shared with energy efficiency advice, low carbon technologies and energy crops-could provide the necessary £30 million capital subsidy for around 100 MW of offshore wind farms.

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