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Breakthrough 2017: Reframing Energy Policy

Posted By Luke Clark, 10 January 2018

2017 has indisputably been the year of clean, renewable power. Low carbon overall generated a majority of the UK’s electricity for the first time ever and wind generated more than coal plants on more than 75% of days last year and proved itself as the low cost option for our future power system. September’s auction results showed just how low the costs of mainstream renewable technologies have fallen, with offshore wind – previously seen as the outlier for low carbon technologies – halving costs and coming in cheaper than new nuclear and gas plants at £57.50 per MWh.

 

The stunning result for offshore wind has helped to reframe the debate about renewables more widely and, in particular, how the UK can take advantage of our cheapest option for new power capacity – onshore wind. Following very difficult years for the sector, we begin 2018 with a new recognition from Government that, as BEIS Minister Claire Perry said in November, “onshore wind is absolutely part of the future”. Industry has much to do to ensure new projects can get to market and RenewableUK is working with our members to make this a reality.

 

For marine renewables, 2017 brought more mixed results. The Hendry Review concluded that tidal lagoons can deliver a secure supply of energy for a price which is competitive in the long-term. But as the anniversary of the Hendry Review approaches we are still waiting for the Government’s response and a decision to take forward this world-leading project. The wider wave and tidal stream sector is continuing to innovate and bring forward new technologies to deliver the broad range of low carbon technologies we need for our future power mix. Last year the MeyGen project in the Pentland Firth delivered the world’s first commercial scale tidal array and Scotrenewables’s tidal turbine smashed the record for generating one gigawatt hour of power in testing at EMEC in Orkney.

 

The ambition of the sector isn’t matched, however, by the policy framework. Government is starting to recognise the need for new ways to support innovative technologies and Energy Minister Richard Harrington has said that Government is examining industry’s Innovation Power Purchase Agreement proposal. We know that the sector needs a robust evidence base and in the coming months, the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and RenewableUK are producing a new study on the potential for cost reduction, UK exports and cuts in emissions from the marine renewables.

 

Innovation in 2017 wasn’t confined to wave and tidal energy; October saw Statoil and Masdar’s Hywind Scotland, the world’s first floating offshore wind farm, beginning to deliver electricity to the grid, and in May the world’s largest turbines, the MHI Vestas V164-8.0MW, started turning at Ørsted’s Burbo Bank Extension. The Queen’s visit to the Siemens Gamesa blade factory in Hull last November was a powerful signal of how renewables, and the UK industries we have built up, are now a part of the new energy mainstream.

 

In 2018, we want to go further still in building an energy system fit for the future – and the UK supply chains to deliver it. The consultation on our Smart Power Future and the launch of the £246 million Faraday Challenge to support innovation in batteries and storage were clear signals that the Government recognises the direction of travel for our power system. Last year RenewableUK joined forces with a range of energy bodies to launch the Smart Power Industries Alliance to look beyond individual technologies and take a whole system view of a renewables-dominated power mix.

 

We ended 2017 with new projections from Government that underline the move to a low carbon mix with renewables as the main source of energy. Just as 2017 marked the crossover point where we proved our case on costs, so 2018 will mark the moment we begin to reshape the power system to seize fully the opportunities of a clean energy future: reduced electricity bills, secure power supplies and more productive industries and high-value jobs across the UK.

Tags:  CfD  Innovation  Offshore Wind  Onshore Wind  Smart Energy  Tidal  Wave 

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Offshore wind and offshore oil - a shared sea and a shared workforce

Posted By Maf Smith, 22 April 2016
Updated: 02 June 2016
We’re proud to be the world leader in offshore wind – a technology which we started installing in British waters in the early 2000s. Sharing space out at sea is the UK’s world leading oil and gas sector which has been an important part of the UK economy since the 1960s. We are two industries both delivering economic success for the country.

However, right now the UK’s oil & gas industry is facing one of the greatest crises in its history, and low international oil prices are impacting on investment and employment. Many in the industry are thinking long and hard about the industry’s long-term prospects. Hardest hit have been cities like Aberdeen but the impact has been felt in coastal communities from Shetland to Lowestoft.

There is some hope, however, for the many experienced oil industry employees who may be worried about the future. That hope comes from offshore wind.

In January, the Government announced work on a “UK Oil & Gas Workforce Plan” to examine, among other things, how it can support workers who have lost their jobs, or may be in danger of doing so. RenewableUK has taken an active role in this process, helping Government identify the scale of the opportunity presented by offshore wind for former employees in oil & gas.

Offshore wind already contributes 5% of the UK’s electricity and supports around 15,000 people in employment. By the end of this decade the UK’s offshore wind sector will double in size, and there are opportunities in construction and operation of a growing number of sites. New offshore projects in development are exponentially larger than existing wind farms in terms of size and scale. These power plants will need huge numbers of highly skilled individuals to be built. Offshore wind farms have long development programmes, a construction phase of two to three years, and an operating lifetime of 20 to 25 years. For example, ScottishPower Renewables is currently developing its East Anglia One offshore wind farm; a £2.5 billion investment requiring an estimated 3,000 skilled employees.

This is where oil & gas comes in. The UK is perfectly placed to take advantage of its 40 years of offshore expertise by easing the transition for workers from fossil fuels into renewables. We have already seen traditional developers, such as Statoil and Repsol, diversify into offshore wind as early movers in the sector, while underneath we have a large supply chain of offshore contractors with a track record of winning work in offshore wind and oil and gas.

As the industry grows so it is learning from oil and gas about how to operate safely at sea. A great example is the use of helicopters by our industry for construction and maintenance work, with helicopter firms now active in the wind market.

There is a great opportunity for establishing a clearer path to retrain workers for a life in clean energy. This means providing resources for people who may not be aware of the opportunities to make the transition. Their experience working in other parts of the offshore energy sector is highly sought after, with the aptitude, professionalism and transferable skills all valued highly in offshore wind.

The practical work of our industry to support workers in transition comes in many forms. UK companies take their supply chain responsibilities seriously and are active in supporting UK firms win contracts. As an industry we run regular supply chain events to help companies and future employees understand about how to go about winning work. We have an annual skills fare putting companies and potential employees together while also providing advice and background to those wanting to move into our industry. And we work across training providers to make sure that there is good training available which is accredited to a suitable standard. A good place for individuals to start is the careers section of our webpage which provides information on apprenticeships, qualifications needed and has a jobs board of available work.

There is a lot that individuals can do for themselves to win work in this exciting industry. The Government’s work however is a vital part of coordinating efforts to support oil & gas industry employees, and it is equally important for offshore wind. Our sector is proud to be part of the solution for hardworking energy sector workers and their families.

This blog first appeared in BusinessGreen.

Tags:  government  Offshore Wind  oil  Scotland  Scottish Renewables 

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