UK could support 30GW by 2030

UK: A new report by Aurora Energy Research suggests the UK's offshore wind capacity could quintuple in size by 2030 if given the right policy mechanism.

UK offshore wind capacity could reach 30GW by 2030, research suggests (pic: MPI Offshore)

Aurora suggested by awarding Contracts for Difference (CfD) support deals that are effectively subsidy free but give revenue stabilisation; and by allowing offshore wind projects to "revenue-stack" — permitting entrance in to the capacity market, for example — offshore wind capacity would grow from the 6GW currently installed, to up to 30GW by 2030.

Under current government policies, with a further £557m up for grabs in a CfD auction round in 2019, which is currently set only to be open to "less-established technologies" such as offshore wind, the UK's capacity could grow to between 20GW and 24GW by the mid-2020s.

Beyond the current funding, the UK government announced in November no further support budget would be given "until the burden of such costs [to the taxpayer] are falling".

However, the government added additional levies would be considered if they can demonstrate a "net reduction effect on bills" – which a so-called subsidy-free CfD would offer.

This move by the government was described as a "lack of ambition" by trade body RenewableUK.

Aurora's research found offshore wind can expect a 25-30% reduction in capital costs to 2025 due to the growth in turbine ratings, which many in the industry believe to reach 13-15GW in that period.

"Allowing offshore wind access to zero-subsidy CfDs and revenues from capacity, balancing and ancillary markets improves the asset-level economics of offshore wind sufficiently to allow the deployment of significantly more offshore wind capacity in the [UK's] system," the report stated.

The research believes offshore wind projects could increase revenues by 9-14% against a 'wholesale-only' model, but warned this estimate was "very dependent on the trading strategy utilised by the asset owner".

Aurora argued the increased revenue from additional revenue streams would bring forward the date offshore wind projects can operate subsidy free.

If both policy mechanisms were introduced, the first deployment of projects to benefit could be as early as 2025.

In response to the report, the UK's Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) co-chair Benj Sykes, said: "Their report again illustrates that the unprecedented reduction in costs that the industry has achieved offers a huge opportunity for reducing the country's carbon emissions, whilst helping to reduce bills for consumers and create opportunities for UK businesses of all sizes.

"The industry looks forward to continuing to work with Government to maximise the advantages of our world-leading position and agreeing a transformational Sector Deal, which will unlock at least 30GW of capacity by the end of the next decade, providing affordable clean electricity to homes and businesses across the UK, energising the innovative UK businesses serving our industry at home and abroad, and creating skilled UK jobs in the places where they are most needed."

Beyond the report, Aurora said it has modelled some scenarios in which UK offshore capacity could reach 40GW. That would require the implementation of the measures above, plus a carbon price reaching £100 per tone by 2030, no further nuclear build beyond the delayed and overpriced Hinkley Point C, a limited onshore wind build-out, and a greater reduction in offshore wind capex and opex through technological advancement.