RenewableUK has published an Onshore Wind Industry Prospectus offering a new partnership with the Government and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to maximise the economic benefits of clean power for bill payers while ensuring that the UK reaches net zero emissions at the lowest cost.
Onshore wind is one of the cheapest forms of electricity generation available to the UK. The cost of electricity from new onshore wind projects is lower than the wholesale electricity price and is forecast to get even cheaper, reducing consumer bills. It has a key role to play in helping the Prime Minister to achieve his pledge to decarbonise our electricity system completely by 2035.
The prospectus shows that doubling the UK’s onshore wind capacity to 30 gigawatts (GW) by 2030 would reduce consumer bills by £16.3 billion over the course of this decade - an annual saving for £25 for every household. It would also help the Prime Minister to achieve his pledge to decarbonise electricity completely by 2035.
It would generate £45 billion of economic activity and create 27,000 full-time jobs in the UK’s onshore wind industry including the supply chain. This would sustain a high level of UK content (70%) in designing, building and maintaining onshore wind farms as well as manufacturing components.
Scotland is set to benefit most with nearly three-quarters of this decade’s new capacity being installed there, creating 17,000 new jobs. England would see 6,000 new jobs, Wales 3,000 and Northern Ireland 1,000.
New polling conducted by Survation and published today by RenewableUK shows that onshore wind enjoys a high level of public support. 72% of the public want the Government to set a long-term target for wind ahead of the UN summit on climate change in Glasgow in November. Support is even higher among Conservative voters at 74%.
74% of the public agree that the Government should work pro-actively with the onshore wind industry to boost jobs and local business opportunities in onshore wind. The industry is offering to work closely with the Ministers on a strategy to build new local supply chains.
The document states that onshore wind is vital in reaching net zero emissions as fast as possible. Installing 30GW by 2030 would save around 6 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year, the equivalent of saving a forest the size of Northern Ireland or removing 1.1 million cars from the road annually.
The Climate Change Committee has advised the Government that we need to install 35GW of onshore wind by 2035 as a key step to reaching net zero. At present the UK is consenting less than half the annual capacity needed to reach that goal (49%) – an average of just over 600MW a year when we should be installing 1,250MW a year to stay on track.
Onshore wind also has a key role to play in producing green hydrogen for a wide range of sectors, including heat and transport which have been difficult to decarbonise. The prospectus notes that the potential economic benefits of renewable hydrogen generated by onshore wind farms are vast, generating £1.4 billion of economic activity in total and creating 1,000 full-time jobs between now and 2030 in the hydrogen industry. Green hydrogen capacity in the UK could reach 5GW by 2030 and onshore wind can support 1.7GW of this by the end of the decade.
To seize these benefits, the prospectus sets out a wide range of actions for industry and Government, including introducing annual CfD auctions to stimulate more investment, reforming the planning systems in all four UK nations by ensuring that the urgent need to tackle climate change is taken fully into consideration, setting out a new strategy for grid development in Wales, reforming Ofgem so that it sharpens its focus on net zero, and ensuring that older onshore wind farms reaching the end of their natural lifespan are replaced with modern, more efficient turbines.
The prospectus also calls for the reform of the regulator Ofgem by changing its remit to take account of the need to deliver net zero emissions. The document notes that Ofgem is currently under-estimating the scale and pace of investment needed to attract more investment in upgrading the grid, which risks undermining the transition to renewables. The prospectus highlights the fact that the current charging arrangements for the use of the grid network are significantly higher in Scotland where the vast majority of onshore wind development is taking place - and that the scale of these additional charges is expected to increase in future years unless remedial action is taken.