Repowering is key to true 'transition'

There was always something slightly dispiriting about the phrase "energy transition". It represented something sluggish and recalcitrant -- a creeping, crawling process through conferences and committees about how shifting from dirty and resource-finite sources to clean and sustainable energy could be managed in the prevailing economic and political circumstances.

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Those circumstances no longer prevail. The oil industry is tendering supertankers at a cost of $250,000 a day to store its excess supply. Royal Dutch Shell has cut its shareholder dividend for the first time in 75 years.

BP, which briefly described itself as "beyond petroleum", but let that aspiration slip when it came to business as normal after the 2008 crash, has recorded a $505 million loss for the first quarter of 2020, against a $2 million profit for the same period last year.

"Energy transition" does not nearly begin to explain the pace at which the energy scene is changing at present.

Renewables in general, and wind in particular, have weathered this first phase of the crisis well. But there is so much more to do.

And, top of the list, there has to be a root-and-branch rethink on repowering. We simply cannot afford to retain, as WindEurope chief Giles Dickson has pointed out, the luxury of having the worst turbines sitting on the best sites.

Better use of sites

Wind-turbine technology has developed quicker and further in the past two decades than was ever envisaged. The developers, operators and owners of wind projects working to 15-20-year contracts — who are now pushing to extend the working life of their assets beyond that — are simply following the basic economic rules of asset management.

But we are moving into territory where those considerations count for less than simply providing clean electricity at the most economic cost. The wind industry can do much more. Sure, a push in the right direction from an environmentally-aware administration would be welcome. But don’t hold your breath.

This is not a time for whinging and recriminations. Let’s just concentrate on how we can get the most from the latest turbine technology.

We simply cannot afford to wait for governments to act on their notions of the energy transition to take the next step once the world opens up for business again.

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