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How the UK can deliver its offshore wind ambitions and help tackle climate change

Over the last few months, it has been heartening to hear the determination from governments in the UK and across the world to maintain their climate ambitions in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a clear understanding that accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy can both drive our economic recovery and build resilience for the future.

It is vital the UK Government and renewables sector grasp this opportunity to take transformative action and the recent ‘Build Back Greener’ announcement from the UK Government comes at an opportune moment, placing offshore wind firmly at the centre of the UK’s green recovery. The Prime Minister’s pledge that offshore wind will be the backbone of the UK’s electricity system by 2030, is a welcome boost in the battle against climate change, bringing around £50 billion of investment in the UK, many thousands of direct and indirect jobs across the sector and helping achieve the UK’s legally binding 2050 net zero target.

It builds on a positive and productive few years for offshore wind. The Offshore Wind Sector Deal has enabled ever closer collaborative working between government and the industry, reinforcing the effective and stable regulatory regime for offshore wind which has given developers, supply chain companies and the financial sector the confidence to invest. This in turn has supported and encouraged innovation, whilst also providing the competitive tension required to drive down prices at an unprecedented rate.

Now this renewed commitment from the Prime Minister to achieving 40GW of installed offshore wind by 2030 represents a huge opportunity for the UK. It is a target which I firmly believe is achievable but we shouldn’t be under any illusions about the scale of the challenge.

We currently have around 10GW of offshore wind capacity installed in UK waters and a further 10GW consented, either already in construction or on its way following a CfD award. We need to double this again in the next 10 years if we are to achieve the target and several regulatory and technical barriers need to be overcome.

Additional seabed leasing, structured support for UK supply chain companies, development of windfarm-compliant military and civil radar systems, building the transmission infrastructure required to connect large scale renewable electricity, sufficient resources for the government’s regulatory and advisory agencies, and the development of a new strategic approach to marine spatial planning are just some of the crucial elements needed to unlock this exciting future for the sector and the country.

Focusing on one of these areas for a moment, marine spatial planning: the 40GW target will only be possible if Government, the offshore wind industry and environmental stakeholders can come together, as we did to deliver the Sector Deal, to ensure that new wind farms can get consented quickly and responsibly. It is essential that, together, we accelerate deployment and sustainable build out the UK project pipeline, minimising the impacts of growth on the marine environment. As a responsible developer, we are absolutely committed to working alongside our industry colleagues and stakeholders to determine a clear route for delivery of offshore wind at scale in the most sustainable way possible.

Climate change is a defining challenge of our time and it’s already having a clear impact on the ecosystems in our seas and oceans; the world needs to reduce global carbon emissions by 50% towards 2030 to stay within a 1.5ºC increase in global warming. Large scale renewable projects like Hornsea Three will be instrumental to the UK delivering on its net zero target, providing power to over a million UK homes and limiting the negative consequences of climate change and the threat it poses to the environment. Ensuring ambitious, world-leading projects like Hornsea Three can go ahead is essential if we are to maintain the strong story the UK has to tell about its commitment to addressing climate change and avoid the potential economic consequences of delaying projects that could ultimately feed through to the overall cost to the UK of achieving net zero by 2050.

However, the Prime Minister’s announcement is not just about helping mitigate climate change, it is also the catalyst for creating thousands of long-term skilled jobs, boosting the UK’s supply chain companies with opportunities at home and overseas, supporting the regeneration of coastal communities and pioneering exciting new, complementary technologies.

Renewable hydrogen is a perfect example of the kind of exciting new technology that can coexist with offshore wind and enable large scale industrial decarbonisation. Now is the time for UK companies to innovate in the technologies that will put British companies at the forefront of the renewable hydrogen revolution – from more efficient electrolysers to stackable designs and high volume manufacturing that can follow the industrialisation and cost reduction route that offshore wind took.

The good news is that there are exciting opportunities to realise this potential almost immediately through the forthcoming Offshore Wind Leasing Round 4 and the ScotWind leasing round. The COVID-19 pandemic has given us an opportunity to refocus and, if we make the right choices now, potentially accelerate our progress to a more sustainable, low-carbon future. The offshore wind sector will play a prominent role in this future and I am confident that through continued collaboration between Government, the industry and business we can deliver environmental and economic benefits for generations to come.


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