UK gives big boost to offshore wind energy

Government to support up to 800MW of sea-based windpower over next few years

The UK government is to support development of up to 800MW of offshore wind development in the next few years, energy minister John Battle announced today. The statement marks the most aggressive European official move towards developing offshore wind. It has been greeted enthusiastically by the industry and environmental groups.

With just 130MW of installed onshore wind capacity and no offshore turbines, the UK is currently far behind Europe's wind energy leaders, Germany and Denmark. But given the country's huge wind resource - the largest in Europe - and its very long coastline, today's announcement could lead to a big advance over the next decade.

The government's decision to include offshore wind in a future round of bidding for subsidies under the "non-fossil fuel obligation order" renewables support scheme is linked to an ongoing review into how the UK might meet 10% of its energy requirements from renewable energy. The result of this is expected soon and is likely to confirm a 10% renewables share by 2010 as an official target.

Offshore wind is "the UK's greatest and as yet untapped natural, sustainable and pollution-free resource," Mr Battle said today. Government support would be aimed at ensuring a "substantial and cost-effective contribution to future electricity needs," he continued. Following a period of consultation, Mr Battle said, bids for between 150 and 800MW would be accepted by the government. He indicated that developers could expect to receive market prices of up to UK£0.055 pence (Ecu0.076) per kilowatt hour.

The wind industry has responded warmly to the government's announcement. David Leivesley of NEG Micon UK and vice president of the European Wind Energy Association, told ENDS Daily that many companies were interested in developing offshore wind in the UK and that government support had been the "missing link".

"There has been a lot of speculation, but we are now seeing the first tangible sign that the government is committed to renewable energy, said Mr Leivesley. He suggested that the announcement could provide a big boost to the UK wind industry. "It's now clear that all European countries are looking seriously at offshore wind," he said. "We could be at the forefront of that push, and the UK industry could really become a world leader."

Greenpeace, which is campaigning for wind power as an alternative to new offshore oil exploration, has welcomed the move, but says that the government should be still more ambitious. Offshore wind alone could provide more than the "modest" target of a 10% share for all renewables, the group said today. In a recent report, Greenpeace estimated that offshore wind could supply 40% of UK electricity by 2030 (ENDS Daily 19 June).

Follow Up:
UK industry ministry, tel: +44 171 215 5000.

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