Utility giants urge stronger onshore wind policy support on road to net-zero
Scottish Power and SSE are among the big-name utility companies to have signed a letter urging the UK Government to implement greater policy support for onshore wind in light of its new net-zero target.
Addressed to new Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng, the letter urges the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to reverse its 2015 decision to exclude onshore wind assets from the Government’s Contracts for Difference (CfD) process.
Critics of the policy decision claim that it, coupled with stricter planning regulations for onshore wind farms and the closure of the Renewables Obligation (RO) scheme in 2018, has resulted in a “quasi-ban” on the installation of new onshore wind capacity.
The letter on the issue has been signed by EDF, Vestas, Vattenfall, Statkraft, RES Group, CS Wind, Innogy and Siemens Gamesa from the onshore wind value chain, as well as major utilities SSE and Scottish Power. Trade organisations RenwableUK, Scottish Renewables, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), Make UK, the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) and the Confederation of British Industries (CBI) have also given their support.
The letter states: "The onshore wind industry wholeheartedly supports the UK government's commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Such an ambitious target requires effective and timely policymaking to make it achievable and affordable.
“We therefore urge you to establish a new onshore wind strategy at the soonest opportunity which embraces the creation of new jobs across Great Britain, delivers substantial investment and economic benefits, and lower energy bills for every household."
Winds of change?
The call to action comes shortly after Kwarteng’s predecessor Claire Perry unveiled a new offshore wind sector deal for the UK, with a headline ambition to ensure that the generation method will provide 30% of the nation’s electricity by 2030.
To help the power sector reach that aim, the sector deal commits industry players to invest £250m over the next 11 years in exchange for participation in £557m of state subsidies.
While the sector deal was widely welcomed across the green economy, critics were quick to point out that BEIS is yet to have confirmed plans to develop similar support for onshore wind.
Perry had previously hinted that onshore wind and solar projects could be allowed to compete for subsidies in future CfD auctions. But, since then, BEIS has repeatedly argued that offshore would be a cheaper mechanism for reaching net-zero, largely due to the fact that turbines can be bigger. Moreover, junior business minister Lord Henley recently told the House of Lords that the Government has no plans to change its existing policy approach to onshore wind.