Policy to stifle onshore wind sector following record year for installations, report warns

The UK Government is risking billions of pounds of new investment opportunities by failing to open up new avenues to deployment for the onshore wind sector, according to a new report from industry body RenewableUK.

The UK achieved record levels of installations for onshore wind capacity in 2017, as more than 2,600MW came online. According to the report, future levels of growth are at risk as onshore wind is currently blocked from competing for new power contracts under the Contracts for Difference (CfD) auctions.

The added onshore wind capacity in 2017 is valued at £7.7bn, of which £5.3bn is retained in the UK. The report states that the record level of installations was driven by a deadline to accredit projects for the Renewables Obligation (RO) scheme, which expired in April last year.

RenewableUK argues that the industry is facing a drop in new investments, which will also impact the UK’s climate commitments unless new policies are introduced. The report cites research from BVG Associates, which claims that contracts for onshore wind would provide a payback to consumers of more than £1.6bn.  

RenewableUK’s executive director Emma Pinchbeck said: “2017 was a record-breaking year for onshore wind in the UK, with more new capacity coming online than ever before. This technology is now powering over 7.6m homes. Onshore wind is a major success story in the UK’s low carbon economy and is now the cheapest option for new power. 

“By excluding onshore wind from the market, the Government is putting at risk billions of pounds of new investment annually across the UK and making it more expensive to meet its own climate change targets.”

Perverse policies

The installations are double the previous annual record set in 2013 and account for one-fifth of total onshore wind capacity in the UK. The majority of new capacity was installed in Scotland (1,673MW).

ScottishPower Renewables’ chief executive Lindsay McQuade claimed that adding 5GW of new onshore wind capacity in the UK by 2025 would deliver £12bn to the UK economy. It would also support 18,000 construction jobs and 8,500 long-term skilled jobs.

The report builds on research from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), which warns that the Government’s “perverse” policy on onshore wind could cost the UK around £1bn over the next four or five years.

Energy and Clean Growth minister Claire Perry has hinted that onshore wind and solar projects could be allowed to compete for subsidies in future CfD auctions. However, little detail is available as to when the technologies will be included.

Matt Mace

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