Detailed examination of plans to update UK energy policy began this week, with a cross-party group of members of parliament (MPs) hearing oral evidence from an impressive list of companies active in the offshore wind sector as well as from energy minister, Ed Davey, and representatives of industry and environmental groups.
This scrutiny stage of the draft energy bill kicked off with Davey telling MPs that the "vast majority" of companies would like the UK government to insert a 2030 ‘decarbonisation’ target into the bill before it is finalised later this year.
Such a target would favour continued rapid expansion of renewable energy generation, including offshore wind, as well as new nuclear power, since it would require the country’s electricity sector to restrict emissions to 50g/kW. The target has been opposed by UK finance minister, George Osborne, whose vision for new electricity capacity focuses on new gas-fired power stations.
Six companies active in offshore wind development in UK waters gave oral evidence this week to MPs: Dong, Scottish Power, Centrica, E.ON, SSE and EDF. In addition, two manufacturers of offshore wind turbines also offered their perspective: Siemens and Vestas. Siemens is expected to make a decision this month about whether it will establish an assembly facility at the port of Hull for its new 6MW offshore-specific turbine.
The new energy bill will introduce significant changes in the way offshore wind projects are supported financially by the UK government, with many details about the incoming contracts for difference (CfD) regime – to replace renewable obligation certificates (ROCs) - yet to be agreed.
Support for a 2030 decarbonisation target has come from the UK government’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC), which last month argued that such a goal would cost energy consumers far less than relying on gas. The CCC is charged with assisting the government in ensuring the UK achieves an existing, legally-binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030.
Examination of the energy bill will continue for several weeks, after which amendments will be proposed. A third and final parliamentary reading is likely in May.