The UK could be overtaken by international rivals in the green energy arms race if it doesn’t ramp up connections of new offshore wind developments, energy experts have warned.
Dan McGrail, chief executive of industry body Renewable UK, called on the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to offer a more robust response to subsidy schemes unveiled in the EU and US.
He said: “Recent developments such as the Inflation Reduction Act in the USA and the EU’s Green Industrial Deal have increased competition for investment.
” We must double down on our efforts to support and accelerate offshore wind development, and I’d encourage the Chancellor to bring forward new measures in the autumn budget to incentivise manufacturing investment into the UK that might otherwise go overseas.”
The government is targeting 50GW of offshore wind generation as part of its energy security strategy to slash its reliance on overseas suppliers to meet its needs following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The latest calls from Renewable UK follow its recent release of data showing that UK’s offshore wind development pipeline is nearing 100GW.
Its annual ‘Energy Pulse’ report shows that the UK’s pipeline of offshore wind projects has reached 97.9GW – up from 91.3GW last year.
The pipeline includes projects at every stage of development: operational, under construction, consented or planned.
The UK is second globally, only behind China with 157GW – but other nations are now hot on the UK’s heels with the US in third place with 82GW, Sweden is fourth with 75GW and Brazil fifth with 63GW.
Overall, the global pipeline for offshore wind has topped 1.23TW, an increase of nearly 400GW in the last year.
McGrail warned the government not to be “complacent” with other countries bringing more turbines to their grids on a year-by-year basis.
At the end of 2020, the UK was leading the world in operational offshore wind capacity, with 10.4GW compared to the 7.7GW of China.
However, 2021 saw China not only surpassing the UK but reaching more than double its capacity, with 16.9GW going operational in a single year.
After installing 5GW since the end of 2021, China currently accounts for 48 per cent of global offshore wind generation.
McGrail said: “While the UK has established itself as a global leader in both fixed-bottom and floating wind, we cannot afford to be complacent. More and more countries are fleshing out their offshore ambitions, with clear plans for future developments and industrial strategies to accompany them.”
According to Adam Bell, ex head of energy at BEIS, and head of policy at Stonehaven, issues for developing offshore wind went beyond subsidy regimes and investment.
He warned that major reform was needed to the country’s electricity grid to prevent development logjams and planning disputes as a transformative level of clean energy was brought online.
“Delivering this volume of generation will require radical thinking on both network design and planning reform. We need to move rapidly towards a true North Sea grid to enable us to make best use of the wind off our coasts. Without this, we’ll have a series of planning battles over every new cable coming to land,” Bell told City A.M.
However, there have been sustained calls across the industry to reform the queueing system for new projects both in onshore and offshore wind, with developments taking over a decade to secure a connection.
Earlier this month, National Grid confirmed plans to allow developers to build their own connections to the grid.
When approached for comment, a department for energy security spokesperson said: “Since 2010, we’ve increased the amount of renewable energy connected to the grid by 500 per cent – the second highest amount in Europe. This has meant installing 3.8GW of additional capacity across all renewables in 2022 alone – enough to power 3.8m homes.
“We continue to support more renewable projects to come online, including onshore wind if there is local community backing, as clean, more affordable energy brings down costs for consumers and boosts our long-term energy security.”