Published on January 22nd, 2019 | by Joshua S Hill0
UK Onshore Wind Installation Figures Fall Off The Cliffs Of Dover
January 22nd, 2019 by Joshua S Hill
Onshore wind installations in the United Kingdom during 2018 fell to their lowest levels since 2011, according to new figures from RenewableUK, plummeting by nearly 80% due in large part to the fact the UK Government has excluded onshore wind projects from competing for government-backed contracts.
RenewableUK is the country’s renewable energy trade association, specializing in onshore wind, offshore wind, and wave & tidal energy, and on Friday it published new figures showing new onshore wind installations fell by nearly 80% in 2018. From a record 2,666 MW of new onshore capacity installed in 2017, new installations fell to only 598 MW in 2018, the lowest level since 2011.
This downturn is due primarily to actions taken by the UK Government actively seeking to block onshore wind development. In 2015, for example, the UK Government announced that it would close the Renewables Obligation scheme to new onshore wind, and was officially closed down entirely at the end of 2017 (which helped drive record renewable energy deployment that year). Further, the Government has also banned onshore wind projects from competing in the country’s Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme which uses competitive price auctions to procure new renewable capacity at the lowest possible cost.
“Onshore wind is now the cheapest source of new power for UK billpayers, and it is supported by more than three-quarters of the British public,” said RenewableUK’s Executive Director Emma Pinchbeck. “We have ready-to-go onshore wind that can help close the gap between the low carbon power we need and the amount Government policy is actually delivering, and this week’s announcement on nuclear power has made this mammoth task even harder.
“The Secretary of State has rightly recognised that renewables can now be delivered with little or no subsidies and that they have earned their place at the heart of a modern energy system. But Government has stacked the odds against onshore wind being built at the scale needed to meet our carbon budgets and excluded these projects from competing for government-backed power contracts.”
So popular is onshore wind in the UK that RenewableUK is currently tracking 4,466 MW of shovel-ready onshore wind projects that have already gone through the local planning process and which could generate a total of over 12 terawatt-hours (TWh) of clean power each year. According to RenewableUK’s Robert Norris, who spoke to me via email, “Some of the 4,466 MW of shovel-ready, consented onshore wind projects may be built as a result of Power Purchase Agreements or based on the wholesale price of electricity, but the certainty provided by CfDs would still be needed for other projects.”
Onshore wind is also the cheapest option available for new power in the United Kingdom at £46 per megawatt hour (MWh) – cheaper than gas, new nuclear and other renewables.
In October 2018, 14 major renewable energy companies came together to pen a joint letter to the UK’s Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark, urging him to drop the current restrictions on onshore wind, saying that re-opening onshore wind auctions “would provide a payback to consumers of £1.6 billion.”
“In addition to being the cheapest form of new power generation, an analysis from the BVG has found that onshore wind has the potential to deliver 18,000 skilled construction jobs, 8,500 longterm skilled jobs, and stimulate supply chain investment, resulting in 70% UK content in projects, in those areas where there are no objections to its development,” the authors of the letter wrote.
The letter was signed by project developers ScottishPower Renewables, SSE, innogy, Statkraft, and Vattenfall, along with supply chain companies Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, Vestas, CS Wind, RJ McLeod, Farrans Construction , AE Yates, REG Power Management, Athena PTS, and RSK.
To build the issue even higher, RenewableUK’s new 2018 onshore wind installation figures were released at the same time that Hitachi announced it was pulling out from the proposed Wylva nuclear power plant in Wales, citing rising costs and an inability to reach an agreement between Hitachi and the UK Government. The £13 billion plant is not the only casualty, however, as Hitachi announced it would also suspend work on another site, in Oldbury in Gloucestershire, “until a solution can be found,” potentially risking as many as 9,000 jobs and success in meeting the country’s clean energy targets.
According to analysis by RenewableUK, there is now a gap of over 55 TWh of clean energy needed by 2030 due to the closure of existing nuclear plants and other ageing power stations throughout the early 2020s.
“In terms of what comes next, we’re continuing to put the case for taking a fresh look at onshore wind to Government, and indeed to politicians from all parties – it should be allowed to compete for CfDs on a level playing field against other technologies,” said Robert Norris. “We have enough onshore wind capacity already consented by local authorities to generate two-thirds of the amount of electricity Wylfa would have produced each year.
“The Government said over a year ago that it was examining onshore wind again (see Claire Perry’s comment at the end of the release) to see if there could be a way back – but we’re still waiting for progress on this.”