No new offshore wind farms have been commissioned in a key auction, dealing a blow to the Government’s hopes of decarbonising the UK’s electricity production.
In the annual auction which lets companies bid to supply the grid with electricity, many onshore wind projects and solar farms bid to get a contract.
However, no offshore wind contracts, seen as the backbone of the UK’s green electricity ambitions, were included this year, the Government announced.
It puts a dent in ministers’ promise to deliver 50 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2030, from 14 GW today.
Wind farm builders had warned for months that the Government was not taking into account how much their costs had soared during the cost-of-living crisis which has also pushed up prices for businesses.
“The economics simply did not stand up,” the boss of ScottishPower said on Friday after the result.
Energy and climate change minister Graham Stuart said: “Offshore wind is central to our ambitions to decarbonise our electricity supply and our ambition to build 50GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030, including up to 5GW of floating wind, remains firm.
“The UK installed 300 new turbines last year and we will work with industry to make sure we retain our global leadership in this vital technology.”
One industry source said: “There is no offshore wind and that’s the backbone of our transition to clean energy and attempts to stop using gas, which must be a worry for Government.”
Experts warned that this could lead to higher energy bills for British households. Producing offshore wind used to be expensive, but after years of innovation and building up scale, the price of supplying wind power to British homes had dropped dramatically.
New offshore wind turbines now produce electricity at a considerably cheaper rate than gas power plants. The price of gas has soared after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Keith Anderson, the boss of ScottishPower, which is one of the key builders of wind power in the UK, said that offshore wind is still one of the cheapest ways to generate electricity.
“This is a multibillion-pound lost opportunity to deliver low-cost energy for consumers, and a wake-up call for Government,” he said.
“ScottishPower is in the business of building wind farms and our track record is second-to-none in terms of getting projects over the line when others haven’t been able to. But the economics simply did not stand up this time around.”
Labour shadow energy security and net zero secretary Ed Miliband said: “Ministers were warned time and again that this would happen, but they did not listen.
“They simply don’t understand how to deliver the green sprint, and Rishi Sunak’s Government is too weak and divided to deliver the clean power Britain needs.”
Press Association – August Graham