‘Significant improvements’ needed to meet offshore renewable targets – report

Meeting offshore renewable energy targets by 2030 are “potentially achievable” if the rate of wind turbine installation is doubled or tripled, industry experts have warned.

The UK Government has set a four-fold increase target, however, “significant improvements” will be needed for this to be possible, according to a new study from Offshore Energies UK (OEUK).

Research found that almost half of the offshore wind projected needed to reach the target are only at the concept stage and it typically takes more than 13 years to move to the operation stage due to planning and approval delays.

As a result, the UK is at risk of missing net zero targets, according to the report.

The OEUK’s new economic report will take a detailed look at the nation’s energy security landscape, including gas, oil and offshore wind in an effort to highlight the strengths and vulnerabilities to Government ministers.

UK ministers have been urged to adopt a range of recommendations, including cutting planning consent times from four years to one and developing a fast-track planning process for non-controversial projects.

The Government strategy aims to increase the offshore wind capacity to 50 gigawatts (GW) by 2030. It currently has the second largest, at around 12 GW.

But around 3,200 newer and larger wind turbines will be required to achieve this which had led to Ross Dornan, lead author of the OEUK’s report, to call for the project to be accelerated.

He said: “As of late August, OEUK knew of around 40 projects planned through to 2030 at various stages of the development cycle.

“Based on this pipeline, the energy security strategy target is potentially achievable but it is important to understand the associated project uncertainties and risks.

“This scale of installation is very ambitious and will require significant improvements to the regulatory and permitting progress.

“Of the potential capacity additions before 2030, 46% (almost 19.5 GW) is only at concept stage.

“History shows that it takes around 13 years to progress from concept to application stage through to operations. This means that the UK’s 50 GW ambitions will only be achieved if this can be sped up.”

Progress made in January has saw Crown Estate Scotland announce almost 25 GW of capacity across 17 projects.

And in August, three new offshore wind projects were announced following from Crown Estate Scotland’s clearing process.

With these projects taking into account, it adds up to 27.6 GW of capacity from Scotwind, with over 60% of the awarded capacity allocated to floating solutions.

Mr Dornan added that the vital sector is driving low emissions in the North Sea through the start-up of power generation at the Seagreen offshore project and the beginning of the Dogger Bank project – two of the largest offshore wind farms in the world.

He added: “As we have learned over the last year, energy is a precious resource which must be properly managed, in the short and long term.

“Our sector has many of the answers and through constructive work with governments and regulators, we can boost the UK economy, cut emissions, secure jobs and most important, heat and power homes and industries with energy produced here, for decades to come.”

A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesperson said: “The UK is a world-leader in offshore wind energy and we’re going even further, delivering up to 50GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030. We’re doing this because the more cheap, clean power we generate at home, the less exposed we will be to volatile fossil fuel markets.

“We have already set out how we are going to cut the time spent on the planning and approval process for new wind farms by over half as part of our landmark British Energy Security Strategy published earlier this year.”