UK Gears Up To Kick Start Global Offshore Wind Industry

Editor’s Note: EarthTechling, always looking to forward the cleantech revolution discussion, is proud to present this article via a cross post from partner AOL Energy. Author credit goes to Felicity Carus.

Ambitious offshore wind targets in the UK could result in the country becoming the world leader in the technology and help accelerate the global industry through lower costs, a British energy minister said yesterday.

“We have to accept that there are some technologies where we can really influence the global price and there are others where we can’t,” said Charles Hendry, minister of state for the Department of Energy and Climate. “UK offshore is a fantastic example of where the work that we do here will influence the global price. There are other areas, solar for example where the UK market is not significantly large enough to change the price. So we’re focusing our resources and efforts on where we can see the change in the pricing structure.”

offshore wind power, grid integration, ABB

image via Shutterstock

“This is a massive opportunity for a decade of building about 3.5 GW a year worth of offshore wind in this country. It’s very rare that in any technology the UK determines whether the world is going to do it or not. But we can do it in offshore wind,” said Matthew Knight, director of business development at Siemens Energy.

Hendry also told the Energy Institute’s Countdown to 2020 conference in London this week that after decades of underinvestment in its energy sector, the UK faced a greater challenge than any other European country. Of the €1 trillion in investment required by the 27 EU member states, £200 billion of that would be needed for the UK alone. This decade, 25% of the country’s power plants were closed, reducing a 20% capacity gap to only 5%, he said.

The Offshore Wind Bridge

Offshore wind is one of eight core technologies identified by the UK government to bridge that gap. The UK already has the most offshore wind capacity in the world with 1.3 GW installed at 15 windfarms, which generated over 3 TWh last year.

This July the UK government launched its Electricity Market Reform white paper which said that £200 billion of new energy investment was required to meet the capacity gap. The Renewables Roadmap published at the same time set out the path to 2020 goals and indicated that up to 18 GW in offshore could be deployed by 2020. Beyond 2020 there is a very high potential for deployment with over 40 GW possible by 2030.

“Any company which is serious about wanting to play in this area on a global basis must look at the UK if they want to be in the offshore wind sector,” Hendry said. “We will have the biggest market in the world and we’ve also got tremendous enthusiasm to make it happen. The interest of Vestas,Siemens and Gamesa and others is very encouraging.”

The white paper also created an offshore cost reduction task force to set out a path and action plan to reduce the costs of offshore wind, from development, construction and operations to £100/MWh by 2020. The government has also committed £60 million for offshore wind manufacturing infrastructure at ports, up to £30 million to support innovation in offshore wind component manufacture and up to £20 million for the development of marine technologies.

The task force will report in the spring of 2012, while the world’s first Green Investment Bank will begin operating from 2013 with £3 billion initial capital, to “ensure that we can create a real vitality in this country”, he said.

AOL Energy provides access to news, analysis, thought leadership and discussions about the top stories in the electricity sector today. Participants in AOL Energy stay ahead of breaking news, participate in high-profile events and enjoy access to the central hub of the industry community as it transforms in response to fast-moving changes in energy politics and regulation, deals with financial challenges and leads technological advances.