Offshore wind at critical crossroads, says report

Offshore wind could provide 6% of the UK's electricity supply by 2015 if given more policy backing from the state, but will only deliver 25% of this capacity without it, a new report claims.

Following extensive interviews with over thirty offshore wind companies, the BWEA report concluded that more favourable policies would result in a four-fold increase in the UK’s offshore wind capacity compared with a “business as usual” policy scenario.

Under current policies, offshore wind would provide 2,000MW of electricity by 2015. This is only a quarter of the 8,000MW – or 6% of the UK’s total electricity needs – which could be delivered with policies that improve commercial viability, stability, long-term investment and licensing procedures, the report found.

It identified an “economics gap” of up to 25% of installed project costs, having balanced capital and operating expenditure against revenue.

BWEA chief executive Marcus Rand called for the Government’s ongoing Energy Review to consider the potential of offshore wind to help reach Britain’s renewables targets.:

“There is a huge amount of activity in the sector with over 8,000 MW of schemes in development. However, this potential will only be realised if the current economic gap is closed,” he said..

“Government must use the ongoing Energy Review to put in place a new policy impetus for offshore wind. With this in place, offshore wind can join its sister technology onshore wind in the delivery of the bulk of the Government’s 20% by 2020 renewable aspirations.”

Four offshore wind farms currently supply 213MW of the UK’s electricity, with a further 90MW expected from a major project in Barrow, currently in its final commissioning phase. Europe as a whole will be getting 900MW of its electricity from offshore wind farms by the end of 2006.

The onshore wind industry could generate 6,000MW of the UK’s electricity by 2010, or 5% of the country’s total needs, another report recently found (see related story).

Current policies that help onshore wind development – principally the Renewables Obligation – are far from sufficient to make the technology commercially competitive enough to fulfil its potential, the BWEA said.

The Renewables Obligation requires power suppliers to source 10.4% of electricity from renewables by 2010 and 15% by 2015.

Goska Romanowicz

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