Putting wind in the sails of COP26


Duncan Clark, Head of UK Region, Ørsted

Orsted is delighted to once again be a Strategic Event Partner with RenewableUK for Global Offshore Wind 2021, an event that is even more significant than usual coming as it does just weeks before the upcoming COP26 meeting in Glasgow.


COP26 will see the governments from around the world united around a singular, but vital, aim to tackle climate change. One of the primary goals will be to ‘secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach’. This will only be achievable if, as a first step, countries around the world implement ambitious 2030 emissions targets.


The UK was the first major economy in the world to pass laws to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. The government’s new target of slashing emissions by 78% by 2035 defines the path on the way to reaching it but must be underpinned by clear policies and milestones to be met by 2030, as highlighted by the CCC.


Offshore wind is a case in point. We must make sure the sector delivers on its 40GW target for offshore wind by 2030. This is an ambitious goal, and to put it in context, the UK had reached 10GW of operating offshore wind capacity in 2020. So to reach 40GW by 2030 we must ensure three times as much capacity is installed in this decade as we have done over the last 20 years - a sizeable but achievable challenge with industry and government working together.


Offshore wind will be the backbone of the UK’s expanding electricity system by 2030, delivering a third of all electricity at a price that comfortably undercuts fossil fuel alternatives. The UK Government has made strong commitments to the growth of the industry, which has flourished thanks to a stable policy regime and continued support from successive governments.


Hornsea One Offshore Wind Farm ( Orsted)

And this is just the beginning. As electrification of transport and heating accelerates there is a pressing need for continued sustainable deployment of offshore windfarms, and alongside electrification of domestic heat and light transit, support for early-stage renewable technologies, such as renewable hydrogen and green fuels. These emerging green technologies hold remarkable potential to support large-scale decarbonisation of hard to abate sectors such as industry and heavy transport.


RenewableUK’s recent Raising the Bar report highlights that the UK has a strong starting position in the global race to scale up the production of renewable hydrogen, with ground-breaking initiatives underway such as the Ørsted-backed Gigastack & OYSTER projects in the Humber, aimed at showing how renewable hydrogen could support the UK’s net zero 2050 greenhouse gas emission target.


Now is the time for companies to innovate in the technologies that will put them at the forefront of the renewable hydrogen revolution – from more efficient electrolysers to modular designs that can follow the industrialisation and cost reduction route that offshore wind took. Offshore wind’s dramatic journey shows that the more we build and ‘learn by doing’, the faster we can accelerate cost reduction and the quicker jobs and exports can grow.


Renewable hydrogen is predicted to be at, or below, the cost of blue hydrogen within the decade. However, policy-driven demand pull is needed to stimulate this pace and scale of innovation. The UK Government has an opportunity here to accelerate the UK’s work on the renewable hydrogen economy beyond the vision set out in the recent hydrogen strategy. Providing financial support for “first of a kind” renewable hydrogen projects, getting the right business model in place and supporting ongoing R&D will help ensure the UK remains at the forefront of this emerging industry, with services, skills and technology that are exportable all over the world.


Hornsea One Offshore Wind Farm - Blade fitting - Orsted

On the theme of innovation, it’s been 30 years since we took onshore wind turbines into the water and the industry has been innovating at pace ever since. Floating wind power will enable us to build in much deeper waters than fixed-bottom wind farms, opening up vast areas of seabed. Doing so is critical not only for the development of clean energy in the UK, but also in other countries with deep waters, like Japan, South Africa, and Brazil.


Like renewable hydrogen, floating technologies need support at the early stages of deployment to start their journey down the cost curve – the effectiveness of this policy choice has been well-proven by bottom fixed offshore wind – and whilst this will for now remain the technology of choice for large-scale deployment, as we move into and through the 2030s, floating wind farms will become increasingly cost-competitive.


The Government has already set a target of 1GW of floating wind by 2030, but beyond this, setting a clear trajectory with stretching targets for future build-out would enable the UK to capitalise on its global lead in this innovative technology.


We have come so far, but we have much further to go. COP26 talks must be met not only by bold targets, but also by meaningful policy that drives progress. Ørsted’s transition from DONG Energy to a company entirely dedicated to renewable energy shows what happens when Government gets the policy right and businesses respond. It’s within our grasp to build a future that runs entirely on green energy.

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