In this blog, Stephen Bull, RenewableUK Chair and Senior Vice President for Equinor's North Sea Region, draws an unprecedented year to a close, highlighting RenewableUK's key successes as we have navigated the Covid19 pandemic.
For Britain’s leading renewable energy industry association, it’s been both an extraordinary and successful year. Despite the pandemic, RenewableUK’s profile continues to rise even higher. Tackling climate change is a key issue for the Prime Minister Boris Johnson as well as the public. Now everyone wants to “Build Back Better”. We’re working closely with politicians and civil servants to build the right policy framework to enable us to build vital new energy infrastructure to reach net zero, as well as creating tens of thousands of jobs and bringing billions in investment to the UK over the course of this decade.
The Prime Minister’s call for every UK home to be powered by offshore wind by 2020, his confirmation of the 40GW offshore target - including at least 1GW of floating wind; the £160m funding to develop vital new port infrastructure; and the publication of the Ten Point Plan for a green economic recovery and the Energy White Paper would not have happened without years of hard work by this association and its members.
Through our positive and trusted engagement with the UK Government, we also celebrated a key announcement in March that onshore wind will be competing in auctions for the first time since 2015. As the RenewableUK staff chanted on that day “onshore’s coming home.” And the fact that the overall capacity cap for the next AR4 auction round has doubled to 12GW is also a big policy win for our members.
Stronger media presence with 2,500 articles featuring RenewableUK
These are massive steps forward for our industry and they’re the culmination of RenewableUK’s tireless efforts to move the dial significantly. The shift in sentiment towards renewables over the past five years has been immense. As a result of all this we’re headline news too, regularly quoted in national newspapers in print and online, and interviewed on TV and radio. Our Deputy Chief Executive Melanie Onn is in constant demand as a strong, articulate and passionate advocate for our sector in the media. She’s made a huge impact since she joined us in March – and what a month to join a new organisation, just a couple of weeks before lockdown! Despite that, we’ve continued to increase our profile in the media, appearing in two and a half thousand articles this year. RenewableUK is the trusted voice of the technologies we’re proud to represent on our members’ behalf, and we’re continuing to expand our remit to embrace renewable hydrogen and energy storage, because we don’t just represent renewables – we represent future energy systems.
I’m working with our Vice Chair Ro Quinn of National Grid Group and all of the Board to steer and support this organisation and deliver a vibrant, thriving and member-focused trade association for the 400 firms we represent, from major developers to small supply chain companies and academic research institutions. We value all our members, so our work is planned carefully to ensure that we provide a forum and a strong voice for all the technologies we embrace.
Delivering on the Offshore Wind Sector Deal - increasing UK content and diversity
We are privileged to have such a dedicated and dynamic Board in RenewableUK helping to set the agenda at a crucial time, especially implementing the landmark Offshore Wind Sector Deal announced last year. As a central part of the deal, we’re working hard to build up the UK supply chain so that we reach 60% UK content by the end of the next decade. The Offshore Wind Growth Partnership is leading on this work, which is being delivered successfully by the ORE Catapult. Increasing UK content in offshore wind has moved up the political agenda and we have put in place the initiatives that will deliver this goal.
RenewableUK is leading on a key part of the Sector Deal work by increasing the number of skilled people working in the industry. The Investment in Talent Group is ensuring that we recruit from the widest pool of talent, so that we reflect what makes the UK such an exciting, innovative and successful place to do business. That means bringing in people with transferable skills from the oil and gas sector and former members of the armed forces, as well as graduates and apprentices at every level into our industry.
Representing the breadth of our members
We’re continuing to make a strong case for expanding onshore wind - including the need to encourage repowering, which offers huge investment opportunities across the UK. For marine energy technologies, we need the right financial mechanism to reach full commercialisation and strong support for R&D. To get to net zero and a future-fit power market, a wide range of clean technologies is required. We’ll continue to make that case in the year ahead; a year which culminates in the UN climate change conference – COP26 – in Glasgow in November. The eyes of the world will be on this country, and its record on tackling climate change, the energy transition and powering economic growth through renewable and low carbon technologies.
We have a good story to tell. We unveiled new figures at our highly successful online Global Offshore Wind event last month, showing that the total pipeline of global offshore wind projects has grown by 47% since January (up from 135 GW to 197 GW). Despite the pandemic the UK remains the largest single market for this technology. We’re also focussing on innovative technology, emphasising more than ever this year that renewable hydrogen has a key role to play as a zero-carbon power source. In May, we published a major report, “Powering the Future: RenewableUK’s Vision of the Transition” which set out a wide-ranging vision of how the UK’s energy system is set to change between now and 2050 by embracing green hydrogen, developing a wide variety of energy storage technologies as well as decarbonising heating and transport. This report set down a marker for RenewableUK as thought leaders on the changes we can expect in the decades ahead. As a trusted source, policy makers want to engage with us as we see the integration of renewables influencing so many facets of the economy.
We also published a report on renewable hydrogen in September showing why we’re confident that this technology can repeat the success of offshore wind in driving down costs rapidly. We’ve used this as a platform to call for the Government to publish a hydrogen strategy, including a roadmap to 2050, setting out how it will support its growth by providing the right framework for us to scale up. We’re glad to see that policy makers have been listening to us, as the Government has now pledged to unveil a clean hydrogen strategy in the spring, as one of the key commitments in the Energy White Paper.
Putting values into membership
As many RenewableUK members know, we are passionate about promoting diversity, so I’m very proud that the Shadow Board led the work on our Member Values Charter. This sets out the principles which underpin our members’ activities and our shared ambitions for the future. It highlights the fact that we’re leading the energy transition and we’re strongly committed to bringing benefits to communities around the country in job creation and investment. We support net zero and believe we can reach it before 2050. One of the key elements is the fact that the charter contains a pledge to treat everyone working in the renewable energy sector openly, fairly and with respect, increasing diversity, inclusion and equality within our workforce and across the wider supply chain. We especially want to encourage a fully diverse range of talented young people to imagine themselves as leaders, on stages, and in the boardrooms, of our industry in the future. As one example of this, you’ll be aware that the offshore sector set a new BAME target of 9% in March, and a stretch target of 12% - up from 5% across the energy sector overall now. And RenewableUK is continuing to ensure that a third of the speakers at our events are women.
A new platform to connect members and the industry
Speaking of events and other commercial activities, I’d like to give a shout out to our Executive Director, Isabel DiVanna, who began working with us in January – what a year it’s been for her too! Over the course of the last 12 months, she’s focused on the commercial development of our business activities and widening our membership. We successfully moved our events from physical to virtual this year and, as you’ll be aware, these have been well attended and well received by the industry as well as politicians and the media, maintaining our position as the leading renewable energy organisation in this country.
One of the highlights of our events programme for me was the Futures Forum at Global Offshore Wind which highlighted opportunities for young people, giving them career advice on how to get a head start in applying for jobs in the renewable energy sector.
Finally, I want to say, on behalf of the Board of Directors, thank you to our CEO Hugh McNeal and the entire RenewableUK team, for steering this organisation through all the successes this year. RenewableUK was extremely quick off the mark to help get the guidance published that the industry needed to keep working successfully during the pandemic. Hugh’s steady hand at the wheel, even during a time of unprecedented uncertainty, has been exemplary – this is how you run a member-driven business, attract talented staff and keep our people motivated. This is how you retain your membership and grow the organisation. For the last five years, all of us have watched RenewableUK grow in stature, confidence and authority. And we’re just getting started.