RSPB calls on UK Government to commit to offshore renewable energy projects

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has called on the UK Government to renew its commitment to supporting renewables, with an emphasis on "deep water" energy, on the same day that a consultation on renewable energy support closes.

The RSPB has called for a “carefully-planned” renewable energy blueprint that would establish how the Government plans to fund renewable energy beyond 2020. The charity has also claimed that renewable energy projects in deep water, such as floating turbines, would strengthen support for renewables by mitigating wildlife and habitat impacts.

RSPB’s senior policy officer Melanie Coath said: “The RSPB is clear that continued Government support for carefully-planned renewable energy into the 2020s is critical to the UK’s long-term energy strategy. There is also an exciting opportunity to be at the forefront of innovative technologies like floating wind turbines, if we seize the opportunity now, and make sure we invest in understanding the impacts of those technologies so they can be rolled out in harmony with nature.”

The call from RSPB arrives on the same day (8 August) that a consultation asking whether subsidy regulations for renewable energy should be altered to create new Government-backed support mechanisms for renewable energy projects due to start between 2020 and 2026.

Despite cutting support for both solar and onshore wind generation through feed-in tariffs and the Renewables Obligation (RO), the Government has indicated that it is willing to support offshore wind and “less established” technologies.

RSPB has welcomed this willingness to explore less conventional renewable energy projects, such as the world’s largest floating windfarm off the coast of Peterhead, claiming that it would support projects that will have less of an impact on marine wildlife.

The charity also noted that support for offshore schemes, as well as traditional renewable projects, would be vital to rejuvenate investor confidence that has been damaged by numerous policy changes.

A new-found aim from the Government to support offshore wind and other variations would enable it to meet commitments laid out in the 2016 Budget, including a £730m auction for “less-established technologies” under the Contracts for Difference.

Low-risk renewables

The RSPB recently published its 2050 Energy Vision report, which highlights how the UK can meet energy and climate targets by utilising renewable energy projects without adding major risks to UK wildlife.

In an attempt to place nature at the heart of the “energy trilemma”, the report revealed that solar farms and floating offshore wind projects could create around 5,800TWh annually. The report also notes that the UK’s final energy consumption in 2014 was 1661TWh, creating the scenario where low-risk renewables could generate up to four times the UK’s current energy needs.

The charity recently contributed to analysis from the likes of WWF, the Green Alliance and Greenpeace which warned that the UK was “going backwards” on low-carbon energy policies and risks losing its international competitive edge unless new policy outlines were drawn up.

RSPB, which generates enough renewable electricity to power more than half of its 127 UK locations, first warned of the lack of clarity in the UK’s green policy during the build-up to the EU referendum, claiming that international agreements for nature conservation and the environment were “essential”.

Matt Mace

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