Matthieu Hue, CEO of EDF Renewables and Chair of RenewableUK's Onshore Wind Steering Group, on the role of this key technology in the energy transition.
Onshore wind is already a key part of the UK’s decarbonisation success story. Renewables have overtaken fossil fuels as the biggest source of UK power, and a quarter of that electricity comes from onshore wind. It’s delivered thousands of jobs across the UK, not least in Scotland, where it remains the nation’s biggest employer in low carbon power generation. Onshore wind farms have become a feature of our landscape people are increasingly proud of, with a third of people saying they like onshore wind farms more than they did five years ago and support is just as high amongst those living within five miles of a windfarm as anywhere else in the country.
To meet the challenge of net zero, we have to scale-up the growth of renewables and the industry has set an ambition for 30GW of onshore wind by 2030. The public not only understand the importance of this challenge, they want Government to grasp it as an opportunity - with recent polling by YouGov showing that renewable energy is the part of the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution the public overwhelmingly want Government to prioritise.
That is why it is crucial, particularly in the year of COP26 when countries around the world need to set out clear plans to decarbonise, that we work with Governments across the UK to set the vision for onshore wind’s role in the energy transition. I’m delighted to be chairing a new RenewableUK steering group on onshore wind that aims to do just that. The initiative is supported by leading onshore wind developers and manufacturers to coordinate across industry and secure long-term growth in the sector.
The benefits of onshore wind are clear to us in industry and many in government – the low-cost power it can provide is vital to keep consumer bills down and support the competitiveness of UK industry in the net zero transition. But we need to be clear on how the benefits of this technology are not only as a low-cost, large-scale source of clean power.
Building local support in communities is key to delivering the next generation of onshore wind projects. It’s right that we have planning procedures that ensure wind farms are built with local support, and the evidence is that this support is rising, and just as strong amongst rural communities as urban communities, and among those who live near a wind farm as those who don’t.
The UK Government’s levelling-up agenda and green recovery policies across the UK nations can drive a new wave of investment in infrastructure and skills that will boost local economies, and the onshore wind sector is ready to play our part. We know that the investment in building and operating wind farms provides huge benefits to local economies over the 25 year life-span of an onshore wind project. From work for local construction firms, to community benefit schemes and skilled, long-term jobs in maintenance and engineering, onshore wind can bring new opportunities to support communities across the UK. The onshore wind industry stands ready to work with Government to help grow the UK supply chain in this sector.
RenewableUK’s new onshore wind steering group will help to coordinate and enable the growth of onshore wind in the net zero transition. I hope that all of the companies involved in the UK onshore wind industry – and advocates for climate action across the UK – will support this initiative. Together we can work through the challenges and set an ambitious path for onshore wind in a net zero economy.