Last week’s Floating Offshore Wind 2023 conference brought together industry leaders, supply chain and policymakers to discuss the critical challenges and opportunities in the burgeoning field of floating offshore wind (FOW). Shadow Board Members, Amisha Patel and Julia Roope were at the event and to capture key soundbites to share with you all. Here is what we found.
As the offshore wind industry steers through choppy water, it's indeed heartening to observe the dedicated efforts of both government and industry to surmount the obstacles posed by Allocation Round 5 (AR5). The industry has ambitious investment plans for the UK, amounting to billions, given the presence of the right policies. There's no doubt regarding the industry's capability to turn these plans into reality, but time is of the essence here!
The Missed Opportunity of Allocation Round 5
Allocation Round 5 (AR5) served as a focal point for discussions at FOW 2023. This auction, aimed at advancing offshore wind projects, raised eyebrows when it failed to attract any bids for floating offshore wind projects. What was particularly striking was the absence of awards for fixed-bottom projects as well, which have historically played a significant role in the UK's renewable energy landscape.
The event started with Scottish Energy Minister, Gillian Martin, taking the centre stage to open the conference by addressing pressing concerns about the UK's energy policy and the future of offshore wind projects. Gillian Martin expressed her concerns about this outcome, stating that it has cast doubts on the UK government's energy policy. For Scotland, in particular, this represented a missed opportunity to bolster its offshore wind capacity, especially in the floating sector, which holds immense potential in contributing to the nation's net-zero emissions goals.
Questions About Energy Security and Development Costs
The absence of bids in AR5 raised serious questions about the UK government's commitment to ensuring energy security through renewable energy sources. Throughout the conference we heard the urgency of addressing concerns raised by developers, especially in the context of escalating development costs, including inflation emphasised. These concerns are crucial to achieving ambitious renewable energy targets.
A Call for a Just Transition and Economic Development
The importance of maximising public benefits from future offshore wind projects in Scotland was a recurrent theme. Economic development and securing a just transition for oil and gas workers were highlighted as top priorities. These aspects are vital not only for the environment but also for the well-being of communities and the sustainable growth of the energy sector.
The recent UK Supply Chain Capability Analysis report from the Offshore Wind Industry Council and Offshore Wind Growth Partnership found that the UK already has a capable offshore wind supply chain with an industry-wide potential to deliver over £90 billion of value to the UK economy by 2040. The supply chain’s ability to support floating offshore wind is seen as a high-value strength with a £55 billion potential opportunity including floater design, mooring spreads, anchoring assembly and installation, and buoyancy with a strong existing capability in the oil and gas sector.
Government Commitment and Future Prospects
Despite the disappointment of AR5, Nicola Higgins, the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero's offshore wind program director, assured attendees that the government is moving swiftly with Allocation Round 6 (AR6). The switch to annual rounds is expected to expedite progress. She emphasised that the government remains committed to the ambitious goal of achieving 5GW of floating offshore wind capacity by 2030, a target that plays a crucial role in the UK's transition to a net-zero future.
Jobs and skills
RUK shadow board representatives were pleased to participate in the engineering careers day sponsored by Ørsted. This provided 100 students with the opportunity to learn about career prospects in the floating offshore wind sector, network with professionals, and gain insights into industry trends and developments. Ørsted, being a prominent company in the renewable energy sector, offered valuable information about careers in the graduate scheme.
Thank you to Evie Hoolahan, RenewableUK and Scottish Renewables for encouraging and supporting initiatives like these to promote interest and growth in engineering and related industries.
The discussions at FOW 2023 highlighted the challenges and opportunities in the floating offshore wind sector. The failure of AR5 to attract bids has underscored the need for a cohesive and forward-thinking energy policy. It's clear that the path forward requires a collaborative effort between the government, industry stakeholders, and the community to address concerns, standardise practices, and drive the growth of the sector. As the world strives to combat climate change and achieve net-zero emissions, the future of floating offshore wind remains a critical component of the solution.