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Clean, green offshore wind is set to power more than 30% of British electricity by 2030, Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry has announced with the launch of the new joint government-industry Offshore Wind Sector Deal.

This deal will mean for the first time in UK history there will be more electricity from renewables than fossil fuels, with 70% of British electricity predicted to be from low carbon sources by 2030 and over £40 billion of infrastructure investment in the UK.

This is the tenth Sector Deal from the modern Industrial Strategy signed by Business Secretary Greg Clark. It is backed by UK renewables companies and marks a revolution in the offshore wind industry, which 20 years ago was only in its infancy. It could see the number of jobs triple to 27,000 by 2030.

The deal will also:

  • increase the sector target for the amount of UK content in homegrown offshore wind projects to 60%, making sure that the £557 million pledged by the government in July 2018 for further clean power auctions over the next ten years will directly benefit local communities from Wick to the Isle of Wight
  • spearhead a new £250 million Offshore Wind Growth Partnership to make sure UK companies in areas like the North East, East Anglia, Humber and the Solent and continue to be competitive and are leaders internationally in the next generation of offshore wind innovations in areas such as robotics, advanced manufacturing, new materials, floating wind and larger turbines
  • boost global exports to areas like Europe, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States fivefold to £2.6 billion per year by 2030 through partnership between the Department of Trade and industry to support smaller supply chain companies to export for the first time
  • reduce the cost of projects in the 2020s and overall system costs, so projects commissioning in 2030 will cost consumers less as we move towards a subsidy free world
  • see Crown Estate & Crown Estate Scotland release new seabed land from 2019 for new offshore wind developments
  • UK government alongside the deal will provide over £4 million pounds for British business to share expertise globally and open new markets for UK industry through a technical assistance programme to help countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan and the Philippines skip dirty coal power and develop their own offshore wind projects

Claire Perry, Energy & Clean Growth Minister said “This new Sector Deal will drive a surge in the clean, green offshore wind revolution that is powering homes and businesses across the UK, bringing investment into coastal communities and ensuring we maintain our position as global leaders in this growing sector.

“By 2030 a third of our electricity will come from offshore wind, generating thousands of high-quality jobs across the UK, a strong UK supply chain and a fivefold increase in exports. This is our modern Industrial Strategy in action.”

The Co-Chair of the Offshore Wind Industry Council and Ørsted UK Country Manager for Offshore, Benj Sykes, said “Now that we’ve sealed this transformative deal with our partners in government, as a key part of the UK’s Industrial Strategy, offshore wind is set to take its place at the heart of our low-carbon, affordable and reliable electricity system of the future.

“This relentlessly innovative sector is revitalising parts of the country which have never seen opportunities like this for years, especially coastal communities from Wick in the northern Scotland to the Isle of Wight, and from Barrow-in-Furness to the Humber. Companies are burgeoning in clusters, creating new centres of excellence in this clean growth boom. The Sector Deal will ensure that even more of these companies win work not only on here, but around the world in a global offshore wind market set to be worth £30 billion a year by 2030.”

Keith Anderson, ScottishPower Chief Executive, concluded “ScottishPower is proof that offshore wind works, we’ve worked tirelessly to bring down costs and, having transitioned to 100% renewable energy, will be building more windfarms to help the UK shift to a clearer electric economy. Two of our offshore windfarms in the East Anglia will replace all of the old thermal generation we’ve sold and we are ready to invest more by actively pursuing future offshore projects both north and south of the border.

“We have a fantastic supply chain already in place in the UK, from businesses in and around East Anglia to across England, across Scotland as well as Northern Ireland. The Sector Deal will attract even more businesses in the UK to join the offshore wind supply chain and we are excited to see the transformative impact this will have on our projects.”

In addition, the deal will:

  • challenge the sector to more than double the number of women entering the industry to at least 33% by 2030, with the ambition of reaching 40% – up from 16% today
  • create an Offshore Energy Passport, recognised outside of the UK, will be developed for offshore wind workers to transfer their skills and expertise to other offshore renewable and oil and gas industries – allowing employees to work seamlessly across different offshore sectors
  • see further work with further education institutions to develop a sector-wide curriculum to deliver a skilled and diverse workforce across the country and facilitate skills transfer within the industry
  • prompt new targets for increasing the number of apprentices in the sector later this year

The cost of new offshore wind contracts has already outstripped projections and fallen by over 50% over the last two years, and today’s further investment will boost this trajectory, with offshore wind projects expected to be cheaper to build than fossil fuel plants by 2020. The Deal will see UK continuing as the largest European market for offshore wind, with 30GW of clean wind power being built by 2030 – the UK making up a fifth of global wind capacity.

The UK is already home to the world’s largest offshore wind farm, Walney Extension off the Cumbrian Coast, and construction is well underway on projects nearly double the size. Around 7,200 jobs have been created in this growing industry over the last 20 years, with a welcome surge in opportunities in everything from sea bedrock testing to expert blade production.

The Deal will look to seize on the opportunities presented by the UK’s 7,000 miles of coastline, as the industry continues to be a coastal catalyst for many of the UK’s former fishing villages and ports. Increased exports and strengthened supply chain networks will secure economic security for towns and cities across the UK.

 

An independent review into the cost of energy led by Professor Dieter Helm CBE will recommend ways to keep energy prices as low as possible.

The review will consider the whole electricity supply chain – generation, transmission, distribution and supply.

An independent review into the cost of energy led by Professor Dieter Helm CBE will recommend ways to keep energy prices as low as possible as part of the Industrial Strategy, Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark announced today.

Professor Dieter Helm, one of Britain’s leading energy experts, will look specifically at how the energy industry, government and regulators can keep the cost of electricity as low as possible, while ensuring the UK meets its domestic and international climate targets.

This ambitious review builds on the commitment made in the Industrial Strategy green paper and will consider the whole electricity supply chain – generation, transmission, distribution and supply. It will look for opportunities to reduce costs in each element and consider the implications of the changing demand for electricity, including the role of innovative technologies such as electric vehicles, storage, robotics and artificial intelligence.

The ambition is for the UK to have the lowest energy costs in Europe, for both households and businesses.

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said “All homes and businesses rely on an affordable and secure energy supply and the government is upgrading our energy system to make it fit for the future. We want to ensure we continue to find the opportunities to keep energy costs as low as possible, while meeting our climate change targets, as part of the Industrial Strategy.

“The review will consider how we can take advantage of changes to our power system and new technologies to ensure clean, secure and affordable supplies over the coming decades. Professor Helm will bring invaluable expertise to the review, and I look forward to seeing his recommendations.

Professor Helm is one of Britain’s leading energy experts, a Professor of Economic Policy at the University of Oxford and a Fellow in Economics at New College Oxford, and a former member of the Council of Science and Technology, advising the UK Prime Minister from 2004 to 2007.

Professor Dieter Helm CBE added “I am delighted to take on this Review. The cost of energy always matters to households and companies, and especially now in these exceptional times, with huge investment requirements to meet the decarbonisation and security challenges ahead over the next decade and beyond. Digitalisation, electric transport and smart and decentralised systems offer great opportunities. It is imperative to do all this efficiently, to minimise the burdens. Making people and companies pay excessively for policy and market inefficiencies risks undermining the objectives themselves.

“My review will be independent and sort out the facts from the myths about the cost of energy, and make recommendations about how to more effectively achieve the overall objectives.”

The government is already taking action, and has asked the regulator to come forward with proposals to extend the price protection currently in place for some vulnerable energy consumers to more people on the poorest value tariffs. This builds on action taken to cap the price for 4 million pre-payment meter customers which came into force on 1 April 2017.

There are also a number of schemes in place to reduce energy bills by improving energy efficiency, such as the Energy Company Obligation which will upgrade 200,000 homes each year and help tackle fuel poverty. For business, the package of relief for energy intensive industries was worth £260 million last year and there are financial incentives to switch to cleaner fuels and processes.

This review will consider the electricity system as a whole and make recommendations on how to deliver affordable energy over the coming decades. It follows the plan set out in July by government and Ofgem for a smarter energy system and the commitment to ensure Britain’s energy costs are as low as possible.

Historical maritime buildings in the harbour of Wick in Caithness, Scotland, will be brought back into operation when renovated to act as the hub for one of the largest new offshore wind farms in the UK.

Work is well underway to build the £2.6 billion, 84 turbine offshore wind farm in the outer Moray Firth. Designed by world famous Scottish engineer Thomas Telford in 1807, the conservation of the onshore maritime buildings will play a key part in generating 588MW of sustainable energy from the wind farm to go into the grid.

Leading independent management, design and construction consultancy Pick Everard, based in Inverness and Glasgow, is part of the team who will be delivering the onshore aspects of the project alongside HRI/Munro Architects.

Pick Everard is delivering mechanical and engineering services for the £10 million land base which will service the windfarm commissioned by BOWL (Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd). Once complete, the wind farm will power approximately 450,000 homes (around three times the number of homes in the Moray and Highland regions).

Doug Soutar, director at Pick Everard, said “This is such an exciting project to work on and one that is key in helping us to continue to deliver sustainable energy for the future.

“The onshore element of the project comprises the conservation, re-planning and part reconstruction of two blocks of the historic Old Pulteneytown area of Wick.
“These buildings are more than 200 years old and have a longstanding history of being used for maritime purposes. We are pleased to be helping to bring them back into service again following planning permission from the Highland Council.”

Wick has provided a safe haven for fishing, commercial, and leisure vessels for the last 150 years or so with the harbour consisting of three basins. The Inner and Outer Harbours are the main fishing and leisure berths, and the River Harbour is the commercial area.

Steve Wilson, senior project manager for SSE, added “Renovation of the iconic Thomas Telford buildings in Wick is well underway and has been progressing well. These buildings will become our long term Operations and Maintenance base for Beatrice Windfarm.

“These Thomas Telford buildings are a symbol of Wick’s industrial and marine past so we are really pleased to be utilising them and in doing so help continue that legacy. We’ve been very pleased with the support there has been in the area.”

The Beatrice wind farm will be operational in 2019. It is one of the largest private investments ever made in Scottish infrastructure, bringing economic and community benefits to the area. Beatrice will also create opportunities with job creations across the region, skills training, investment in Scottish ports and harbours, supply chain opportunities and community benefit funding.

Renewable energy developers will compete for £290m worth of contracts to support the growth of clean energy in Britain, as the second Contracts for Difference auction launches.

Contracts for Difference are won through a competitive process which drives down energy costs for consumers and guarantees companies a certain price for the low-carbon electricity they produce over 15 years. This gives them the support and certainty they need to attract investment and get projects off the ground.

The contracts made available today represent the first part of the Government’s commitment to provide up to £730m of annual support for renewable electricity projects over the course of this parliament. They support a key pillar of the Industrial Strategy by ensuring a cleaner, more flexible energy supply.

Energy Minister Jesse Norman said “This auction underlines that Britain is open for business to companies seeking to invest in low carbon energy.

“It is designed to deliver clean power to a million homes, create jobs in the energy industry and provide new supply chain opportunities, while reducing carbon emissions by some 2.5 million tonnes per year.”

The scheme is funded through a levy which forms a part of energy bills and only projects that offer the best value for money will win contracts. There is no cost on energy bills until projects are up and running and generating low-carbon energy.

The auction process started yesterday (3rd April) and will continue over the coming months. It is expected to draw to a close by the autumn, when the winners of the auction and final clearing prices will be announced.

There has been £52bn of investment in renewable energy in the UK since 2010, and for the first time ever exactly half of the UK’s electricity came from low carbon sources in the third quarter of 2016. The latest contracts will help the UK build on this success.

Activity in the offshore windfarm sector reached a record high in 2016, as the total construction value for projects reached £4.1 billion, increasing from £2.45 billion in 2015.

According to the latest data from construction industry analysts Barbour ABI, offshore windfarms alone accounted for 42 per cent of UK construction contract value in the utilities and power sector and 21 per cent of the entire infrastructure sector. This trend is likely to continue with the pipeline for future offshore wind developments looking healthy, with Barbour ABI reporting that £23.2 billion pounds worth of construction contract value is in planning.

Offshore

Three major projects that made a significant difference to the increase in construction contract value for offshore wind farms in 2016 were the Beatrice, Galloper and East Anglia one offshore wind farm projects, together worth a combined £3 billion pounds, which once constructed will produce over 1,600 MW of renewable energy per hour.

Commenting on the figures, Michael Dall, lead economist at Barbour ABI, said: “Back in 2013 offshore windfarms accounted for only 7.5 per cent of the annual construction value for the utilities and power sector, which increased to 42 per cent in 2016, on the back of significant investment in this type of project.

“With reports showing that the cost of producing electricity in this way have fallen significantly, the increase in construction value makes sense.”

“We have also seen a large uptake in the planning pipeline for future offshore windfarms with £23.2 billion worth of construction planned over the coming years, suggesting this burgeoning sector will continue to expand in 2017 and beyond.

Costa Rica is setting the precedent for other nations looking to utilise green energy and reduce their carbon footprint.

The small Central American nation has generated 100% of its electricity from renewable sources for the past 121 days, and the run isn’t over yet. The country, which draws clean energy from a variety of renewable sources, still has its sights on a full year without fossil fuels.

With a 121-day stretch of 100% renewable energy under its belt and several months left in the year, Costa Rica appears to be edging closer to its admirable target. Costa Rica could be on track to match the record set with its renewable energy production last year, which accounted for 99% of the country’s electricity. That included 285 days powered completely by renewable sources, according to the Costa Rican Electricity Institute.

Costa Rica is able to take advantage of a multitude of renewable energy sources because of its unique climate and terrain. Most of the nation’s renewable energy comes from hydropower, due to its large river system and heavy tropical rainfalls. Solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal energy also play key roles.

Green ambitions

Costa Rica have shown great ambition in the field of renewable energy over the past few years and according to the government they are aiming to be entirely free from fossil fuels by 2021. However, with large sums of money currently being invested in geothermal energy projects, it is anticipated that this impressive target could indeed be met much sooner than originally expected.

In comparison, some countries (ourselves included) could be perceived as simply not doing enough to tackle climate change and improve our energy habits. Costa Rica achieving 99% renewable energy usage this year sends a stark message to the rest of the world of what is possible when a country unites to make a concerted effort to fight global warming using sustainable energy sources and technologies already at our disposal.

Construction work has started on what will be the largest floating solar farm in Europe. Located at the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir near London, the project is part of a greater effort by Thames Water to source a third of its energy from renewable methods by 2020.

Once completed in March, the floating array will boast the impressive accolade of being the second largest of its kind in the world.

In excess of 23,000 panels will be floated on the surface of the reservoir water, generating enough electricity per year to power the equivalent of around 1,800 homes. Once complete, the finished array will cover around a 10th of the reservoir’s surface area – roughly the same area as eight Wembley-sized football pitches.

Thames Water has confirmed that the renewable electricity produced by the 6.3MW floating array will be used to power a water treatment centre nearby.

Energy Manager, Angus Berry said “Becoming a more sustainable business is integral to our long term strategy and this innovative new project brings us one step closer to achieving our goal – this is the right thing for our customers, the right thing for our stakeholders and most importantly the right thing for the environment.”

The installation will require over 61,000 floats and 177 anchors to keep the array above water and in situ, and is been delivered by solar energy company Lightsource.

Chief Executive at Lightsource, Nick Boyle commented that as an increasing number of industries quite rightly turn their attention to lowering their carbon footprint, the solar industry will need to develop new skills in order to ensure that future projects deliver maximum efficiency.

“There is a great need from energy intensive industries to reduce their carbon footprint, as well as the amount they are spending on electricity and solar can be the perfect solution. Therefore, constantly evolving new skill sets to ensure that all of our projects deliver maximum energy generation over the lifetime of the installation” said Nick.

Floating solar farms are considered an efficient way to maximise renewable energy generation in areas where land is scarce, by using the normally redundant surface area on reservoirs and lakes.

The largest floating solar array is currently under construction on a reservoir in Japan. Once completed, it will provide enough clean electricity to power nearly 5,000 households.

Advocates of the approach argue it can also reduce evaporation from reservoirs, while the cooling effect of the water is said to help improve output from solar PV cells.

News of the floating array follows the recent announcement that wind turbine towers are set to reach heights of up to 170m – almost as high as the Gherkin in London, in the near future. This shows that in the world of energy, renewables continue to power ahead in terms of growth and innovation.

Wind turbine towers are set to reach heights of up to 170m with new construction techniques and materials, according to wind power engineering specialists K2 Management. Tower heights have grown steadily over the last decade as operators seek stronger wind speeds higher up in the atmosphere.

Based on work with various clients across the globe, K2 Management believes new technology developments like modular concrete structures mean turbine heights are likely to soar to up to 170m in the coming years – higher than London’s ‘Gherkin’, and almost as high as the Eiffel Tower. This compares to the tallest towers of 150m at present. There has been a 48% increase in average hub height since 1999, and based on its experience in the industry and its partnerships, K2 Management has insight on how to manufacture hybrid tower concepts up to 170m.

According to K2 Management wind resource experts, a 3 MW turbine located in a forest area for example, with an average wind speed of 6 meters per second, will meet 13 percent more wind speed if the turbine height doubled from 70 to 140 meters. Annual energy yield prediction would increase by almost 30 percent because of less surface aerodynamic drag and the viscosity of the air.

Therefore, going up to 170 meters from 70 meters will boost energy yield prediction by 35 percent on average. The more complex the terrain – for instance forests, hills, mountain, buildings – the larger the impact is in using taller turbine towers.

K2 Management CEO Henrik Stamer says “170m towers could become a common sight in the near future in markets like the USA and Germany as part of a new renewable skyline. We expect to see more of these mega designs as we help our clients get the most out of their wind projects.”

Through its network of experts across the globe, K2 Management possesses a unique vantage point overlooking the wind industry, allowing for a view into emerging trends. The Company is able to draw on this wide breadth of experience to identify ways of making wind projects more efficient.

Stamer adds: “As a company that is at the global cutting edge of technology we are helping push the limits of the wind industry in terms of power generation efficiency, cost-effectiveness and return on investment; and these new mega wind turbine towers are a case in point.”

Morocco has launched the first phase of the largest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in the world. When fully operational, the plant will produce enough energy for more than one million Moroccan households.

Inaugurated officially by His Majesty Mohammed VI of Morocco, the solar plant underlines the country’s determination to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, use more renewable energy, and move towards low carbon development.

The three-plant Noor-Ouarzazate CSP complex called NOORo expects to achieve over 500 megawatts (MW) installed capacity, ultimately supplying power to 1.1 million Moroccans by 2018. It is estimated that the plant will reduce the country’s energy dependence by about 2 and half million tons of oil, while also lowering carbon emissions by 760,000 tons per year.

Concentrated solar power is such a promising technology that the International Energy Agency estimates that up to 11 percent of the world’s electricity generation in 2050 could come from CSP. This is especially true in the Middle East and North Africa, a region with abundant solar resources and high hopes of eventually helping to meet the E.U.’s demand for energy.

“With this bold step toward a clean energy future, Morocco is pioneering a greener development and developing a cutting edge solar technology,” said Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for the Maghreb, “the returns on this investment will be significant for the country and its people, by enhancing energy security, creating a cleaner environment, and encouraging new industries and job creation.”

Despite the potential of CSP, relatively high technology costs, when compared to fossil fuel alternatives, deter utilities from investing. Concessional and public financing were key to lift this project off the ground. The Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy, the government agency focused on the country’s solar ambitions, secured over $3 billion needed for the Noor-Ouarzazate complex from the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), European financing institutions and the World Bank.

“This launch shows that the low-cost, long-term financing provided by the CIF can serve as the spark that attracts the public and private investments needed to build massive CSP production facilities at an attractive cost for countries interested in developing solar energy,” said Mafalda Duarte, Head of the Climate Investment Funds.

Trailblazing projects on the African continent, like the Noor solar plant, are proving the performance of CSP. As well as the environmental benefits, the plant results in new, local jobs, and can lead to a high-performing sustainable energy economic sector for Morocco.

Yacine Fal, AfDB resident representative in Morocco, said “Noor solar complex is part of the innovative operations of AfDB in the energy sector in terms of financing and technology. It stands to serve as an example for Africa and the world about how to create effective pathways to greener and more inclusive economies through renewable energy”.