The onshore wind industry will be in Glasgow on 5 November to talk about the future of the industry at Onshore Wind Energy 2019. It promises to be a great event, and not just because of the promise of fireworks. The General Election expected in December offers the opportunity for a much-needed reset of policy to further boost the growing confidence in industry about onshore wind’s potential in the UK.
Our sector has been through a lot since losing a clear route to market in 2015 with the restrictions introduced by the Conservative Government. When the RO closed, the industry was able to develop the tail of projects that had secured a route to market, but since then we’ve seen consolidation as industry has shrunk to fit its new reality. Right now, however, onshore wind is a great industry to be working in, with a positive direction and renewed sense of purpose.
So why the increasing optimism about the prospects for new onshore wind projects and our supply chain?
First, there is confidence in our ability to deliver. Onshore wind’s contribution to emissions reduction in the power sector is second only to the near-total phase-out of coal. As we have phased out coal, we have phased in renewables, and onshore wind has been at the vanguard of this transition. Without onshore wind we would be further behind our carbon commitments, even with the rapid and much needed growth of offshore wind.
Second, we are now seeing a pipeline of activity as our members start to build out corporate PPA and merchant projects. Developers are all scoping their portfolio of projects and looking at ways to build them at lowest cost. Our onshore wind industry has pushed itself to go back around and look again at a next generation of projects and take out unnecessary cost.
This trend reminds me here is a famous story about Steve Jobs, who on seeing the first iPod prototype rejected it for being too big. On being told that was as small as it possible, he dropped it into the fish tank in his office. When the iPod hit the bottom of the tank, bubbles came out and Jobs said – ‘those are air bubbles, that means there is space in there, make it smaller.’ The result of this was of course a better product, and that is what we have been doing in the onshore wind sector. Developers have looked again at how to build and run projects, at how to finance them, at how to adopt new technological solutions.
We now have an onshore wind sector increasingly confident about its ability to deliver projects that are demonstrably cheaper than any other power source, including solar and offshore, even with the rapid cost reduction in those technologies.
Finally, developers also see growing markets for their power. It’s impossible to ignore the increased public appetite for action on climate change. Our net zero commitments demand more low-cost, low-carbon power – Committee on Climate Change modelling shows that as much as 35GW of onshore wind might be needed to help get us there. Polling continues to find that onshore wind is popular, and that consumers want the UK Government to change its policy on this technology. With the kind of legislative and regulatory changes RenewableUK has been advocating for, onshore wind could save consumers up to £50 per year off their household energy bill if there was access to Contract for Difference auctions.
At the same time, corporates and public bodies are taking climate seriously. Corporates are signing up to secure 100% power from renewables, and public bodies across the UK are declaring climate emergencies. Here at RenewableUK we’re fielding increasing enquiries from organisations wanting help to source renewable power.
It feels as if we are on the verge of rapid change, after four painful years. So in Glasgow we’ll be bringing together all of these positive developments: talking about our contribution to net zero and different routes to market; we’re bringing in public sector customers that want to buy renewable power; and we’ll have service providers and tech firms that can help cut costs and generate new income. And, of course, we’ll reading the runes of the General Election and what we might expect from the next election.
Most of all though, we’re looking forward to bringing our industry together. We’re on the cusp of a new phase in our sector and we want you to be part of the conversation. If you care about this next phase of growth, make sure you are part of #RUKOnshore19, part of this new renaissance and part of our renewed growth.