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.

Utility giants urge stronger onshore wind policy support on road to net-zero

The UK achieved record levels of installations for onshore wind capacity in 2017 - but key industry players believe that current national policies could stifle this growth going forward

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.

Sarah George

Comments (3)

  1. Keiron Shatwell says:

    Instead of continuing to build unreliable, unliked onshore wind why not invest some of the money into building new hydro or upgrading existing hydro to make more of Scotland’s greatest natural resource – rain.

    Then invest in harnessing the power of the tides and tidal streams around our shores and the vast amount of heat flowing around the coasts thanks to the Gulf Stream.

    Forget wind for a while, it will NEVER be able to reliably provide all the power we need, especially as more and more Electric Vehicles come on line and they start telling us we can’t use gas or oil to heat our homes (expect a 10x increase in electricity demand when that happens!).

  2. Richard Phillips says:

    It is only to be expected that all the wind energy developers will be pressing the new Minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, to press ahead with both on- and off-shore turbines. The objective is not electricity generation, but money. No consideration is given, in the on-shore case, to possible disturbance to the local population or the visual amenities of the Highlands.
    No recognition is made of the uncontrollable and huge variation of output from which they suffer, a defect which is totally beyond any possible rectification. It gives rise to the use of GWhours when quoting productivity, a trap into which politicians tumble time after time; sheer ignorance.
    The CCC appear to expect the replacement of fossil derived electricity with a ten fold development of off-shore wind power. This ignores the awkward FACT that off-shore turbines are driven by the same weather systems that power their on-shore brothers; and can drop their output by 95% for days. No storage system will ever be built in the foreseeable future which can support such an outage.
    Kieron is quite correct in his comments on wind power. The amount of power from other sources is however insufficient to meet the huge future demand if the insane zero carbon target is pursued.
    The only low/zero carbon source is nuclear, but this seems not to be mentioned by the CCC.
    The government nuclear policy has fallen by the wayside, but it seems to be a matter of little concern.

    Richard Phillips

  3. Ken Pollock says:

    You could summarise the letter in a few words: give us more money! This despite us being repeatedly told that renewable energy is now so cheap, it can stand on its own two feet. Funny that. Why the need for subsidies then?

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie