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Onshore Wind Most Efficient Low Carbon Technology In UK

A new report has found that onshore wind is the most cost effective and scalable low carbon technology in the UK and should be supported.

Published by public policy charity Policy Exchange, the report — Powering Up: The future of onshore wind in the UK (PDF) — examined the future of onshore wind in the UK and its possible role as one of the major low carbon energy generation options available. According to the report’s findings, the cost of onshore wind is estimated to fall from £85/MWh to approximately £60/MWh by 2020 as larger turbines are introduced into high wind speed areas of the country, like Scotland.

Policy Exchange-2 In fact, according to Policy Exchange, “this would put the cost of onshore wind in the same league as a new gas plant and significantly cheaper than offshore wind, biomass, or even nuclear.” From the report:

“Analysis by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) suggests that onshore wind is already the cheapest major form of low carbon power generation available in the UK: cheaper than alternatives such as solar, biomass, nuclear or Carbon Capture and Storage.”

However, to achieve any of the cost reductions outlined in the report, new onshore wind development must be allowed to partake in the UK Government’s Contract for Difference (CfD) auction mechanism — though subsidies can be phased out, with the authors of the report noting that “onshore wind still requires support, but this is diminishing over time.” Furthermore, if something is not done to current Government policy changes it would “signal an end to onshore wind development in England.”

“The Government has recognised the important contribution that onshore wind makes towards meeting the UK’s decarbonisation and renewable energy commitments,” the authors of the report wrote. “However, the new Government has changed the direction of onshore wind policy, committing to ‘halt the spread of subsidised onshore wind farms’ and making significant changes to onshore wind subsidies and planning policies.”

Not to mention the fact that halting the development of onshore wind — a widely recognized cheap and efficient low carbon option — “is likely to lead to a higher cost to consumers of meeting decarbonisation objectives” — objectives that could have been partially met through the development of onshore wind.

Scotland and Wales are still going strong, with 73% of the first round of CfD capacity, and Wales with 24% (England only took in 3%), while conversely the public are similarly well in favor of wind in Scotland, with 71% supporting the technology, compared to 61% in England.

Policy Exchange-1

Further proposals put forward by the report include:

  • Fast-tracking the Energy Bill to minimize uncertainty for onshore wind developers
  • Allowing new and repowered onshore wind projects to participate in renewables CfD auctions
  • Capping and reducing the amount paid to new and repowered onshore wind projects, such that they effectively become ‘subsidy free’ by 2020
  • Increasing community ownership and community benefits from onshore wind
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