COP26: Onshore wind – cheaper, cleaner and ready to go

  • Posted: 15 Oct 2021

Onshore wind can provide economic benefits to consumers while ensuring that the UK reaches net zero emissions at the lowest cost, according to new report by RenewableUK.

This week, RenewableUK launched its Onshore Wind Industry Prospectus, calling for the UK government and administrations in Scotland, Wales and Ireland to show greater support towards onshore technologies as part of our transition towards a clean energy system.

As one of the cheapest forms of new electricity generation, we have long called on the government to recognise the vital role onshore has to play in net zero. According to the prospectus, we should be aiming to double current capacity to 30GW of onshore wind by the end of the decade. This would save around 6 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year, the equivalent of removing 1.1 million cars from the road annually.

And the benefits of onshore do not stop with emissions reductions. Helping to drive down the price of electricity, the report found that increasing onshore capacity could reduce consumer bills by £16.3 billion over the course of a decade and generate £45 billion in economic activity. This includes the creation of 27,000 full-time jobs in a burgeoning onshore wind industry in the UK, including the supply chain.

The report comes at a time when attention around the climate crisis has never been more heightened. We’re gearing up to host COP26 – the most important climate change summit of the year – and last week Boris Johnson committed to decarbonising the UK electricity system by 2035, 15 years ahead of the targets outlined in the Paris Agreement. Urgent action is required, and every clean technology will have to be maximised in order to achieve this pledge.

WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO TO ACHIEVE THIS?

Planning remains an area of concern, especially as new onshore wind applications in England have to demonstrate that the project is sited within an area designated for wind development by the local authority and is stated so in the local plan. It’s been really positive seeing more and more local authorities coming forward and updating their local plans as they officially recognise the climate emergency. However, some plans have a lifecycle of 30 years and are likely to remain outdated for some time.

As part of the government’s recent CfD announcement – which aims to incentivise investment in renewables by providing protection to developers of projects with high upfront costs and long lifetimes – onshore wind was included in a modest pot of £10 million. The government also confirmed that more guidance will be published for onshore wind projects in England to ensure communities are given more of an effective voice on local development, which we agree is extremely important. Public support of onshore wind continues to be strong – with new polling conducted by Survation and published by RenewableUK revealing that 72% want the Government to set a long-term target for onshore wind ahead of COP next month.

REPOWERING

We agree that, in addition to building new projects, it’s also important to explore where older turbines can be replaced with more cost-efficient models and encourage the government to prioritise policies in favour of repowering and life extension. We carried out a repowering exercise with our Caton Moor wind farm in 2006, replacing the existing 10 turbines with just 8 more modern and efficient machines. With two fewer turbines and only a small increase in the size of each, output from the site was increased seven-fold to 47 million units of electricity per annum.

“UK renewables have enormous potential that can be unlocked, fast, and we already have what we need: abundant natural resources, proven technology, lowest ever costs and the right skills. In the run up and following COP26, we would like to see the UK government taking a more favourable approach to onshore wind and seizing the significant opportunities available. In doing so, we could help other countries to realise their onshore potential and continue taking positive steps forward in the global energy transition.” – Matthew Clayton, Managing Director, Thrive Renewables

In anticipation of one of the most important climate summits to date – COP26, keep an eye out for our weekly blogs where we’ll be exploring how a net zero energy system will benefit consumers, business and the country as a whole.