Government reaffirms commitment to onshore wind

There have been a number of positive developments in the renewables industry this week. Firstly, David Cameron rebuffed claims made by some of his backbench MPs that onshore wind power was “inefficient” and that the subsidy rates for both onshore wind farms and single turbine developments should be cut drastically. The backbenchers had submitted a letter to the Prime Minister outlining their complaints and this week they met with Cameron and some senior cabinet ministers to discuss the issue. The result of which was a reaffirmation  of the Coalition Government’s commitment to renewable energy. Cameron stated that there were “perfectly hard-headed reasons for supporting onshore wind“:

Onshore wind plays a role in a balanced UK electricity mix, alongside gas, nuclear, cleaner coal and other forms of renewable energy. A portfolio of different supplies enhances energy security and prevents the UK from becoming over-reliant on gas imports.

“I am also determined that we seize the economic opportunities in renewable energy supply chains as the global race for capital in low-carbon sectors intensifies.”

Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Greg Barker took much the same line, stating:

“The coalition is determined to drive ambitious green growth and this is putting our money where our mouth is. This cash shows we are really shifting gear when it comes to supporting innovation and offshore wind. Making wind turbines more efficient is common sense  and will help bring down the costs of making them more attractive to build and helping us increase the amount of electricity we get from clean, green sources.”

A Downing Street spokesman released the following statement on the meeting between the Prime Minister and his backbenchers:

“The Prime Minister, DECC [Department of Energy and Climate Change] Minister Charles Hendry and DCLG [Department of Communities and Local Government] Minster Greg Clark met Chris Heaton-Harris and several other MPs today. The aim of meetings like this is to give backbench MPs a chance to get a better understanding of government policy and constructively engage with ministers on issues. The PM routinely meets with backbench MPs to discuss issues of importance to them.”

Secondly, it was announced that leading industry body RenewableUK and the country’s biggest trade union Unite had signed a “memorandum of understanding” with each other.

This means that the two organisations will campaign together for increased government and investor commitment to British green growth.

RenewableUK’s chief executive Maria McCaffrey commented:

“The expansion of the wind, wave and tidal industry has the potential to generate up to 120,000 jobs over the next ten years, both directly and through the UK-based supply chain that is growing alongside the industry. Many of the new opportunities the offshore wind industry in particular will generate will be in the old industrial areas along our coastline-areas badly in need of new employment. Working with Unite the union, who will represent many of these future workers, will help us achieve this vision.”

Unite national officer for energy,  Kevin Coyne remarked:

“As the largest union in the UK energy sector, with members in every form of power generation and distribution. Unite is exceptionally mindful of the massive potential for growth and employment the renewable energy sector provides. Unite is committed to support the UK wind, wave and tidal industries to ensure that they create long term skilled employment opportunites. Unite looks forward to working with RenewableUK and its member companies to the mutual benefit of the industry and the workforce.”

It is hoped that a concentrated campaign from Unite could serve to really promote the renewables industry as a creator of large amounts of jobs.

Finally, a word from our own CEO Mark Wilson, quoted in a Guardian article which can be found here. He outlines the benefits medium scale onshore wind turbines can bring to farmers and landowners across the country:

“It’s like the industrial revolution now. Everyone is now trying to get in on it. It’s evolved, and we are seeing a much fairer distribution of wealth.”

With 13GW of renewable energy expected to be installed in the UK by 2020 it is very good news that government and other relevant bodies have reaffirmed their commitment to the industry.

Scottish Government announces new strategy for offshore renewables; wind, wave and tidal

A Scottish Government commissioned task force released a report this week outlining a series of recommendations to reduce costs and timeframes for offshore planning applications. The report can be found here. The task force, made up of the Crown Estate, Marine Scotland, environmental regulators and renewable developers identified a number of areas in which the planning process for offshore renewable developments could be improved.

For example,  they recommended that a national database of survey data should be created. This would serve to reduce costs, timescales and avoid duplication. Work on identifying suitable sites for test facilities; particularly for deep water offshore wind developments was recommended as an early priority. Common standards of data collection and assessment should be introduced to ensure that developers have confidence in their information. Consultation with other sea users should take place before an application is submitted into planning rather than after as it is currently. This would further help to reduce costs and timescales.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond welcomed the reports recommendations:

“The Scottish Government and our agencies are determined to build a strong, sustainable and world-leading offshore renewables industry, bringing jobs and investment to countries around the country. An increasing number of major overseas firms are already joining leading Scottish companies to invest in the development of wind, wave and tidal in Scotland. As we move towards our 2020 target of ensuring renewables contribute at least 100 per cent of Scotland’s own electricity demand, it is important that the scoping, planning, development and deployment of offshore wind, wave and tidal generation is done as effectively as possible.

“That requires developers to consult early with other industries and with communities and to use common standards when surveying potential sites, while it requires public agencies to commit sufficient resources to be able to provide good information, timely advice and clear decisions to developers and other interested parties.

“Scotland’s distinct approach to sectoral marine planning has already provided clarity for developers. By ensuring that government, developers and others get things right at the strategic planning and earliest licensing stages we can cut the time and resource spent on inappropriate developments and allow a greater focus on those areas with the best opportunities to harness resources sustainably. In that way we will reduce our reliance on other forms of fossil fuel-generated power and help tackle damaging climate change.”

The reports findings have been welcomed by a number of relevant parties. Richard Dixon, the director of WWF Scotland commented: “We need to make sure we get the right renewables in the right places. The recommendations from the task force are very helpful.”

Scottish and Southern Energy’s Managing Director for Renewables, Jim Smith remarked:

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s recognition of the issues faced by the offshore renewables industry around consenting. The recommendations of the task force are an important step forward in addressing those issues and we look forward to seeing them implemented. We sincerely hope that these measures help unlock the enormous potential of offshore wind, wave and tidal energy projects around Scotland.”

Alan Moritmer, Head of Innovation for ScottishPower Renewables:

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to improve the consenting process for marine and offshore renewables, and the opportunity we have had to assist in the development of the report and its recommendations. Marine and offshore renewables have the potential to make a huge contribution to Scotland’s energy needs as well as placing this country in a prime position to lead the industry.”

Scottish Renewables Director of Policy Jenny Hogan added:

“With more than 11GW of offshore wind, wave and tidal energy projects in the pipeline by 2020, a streamlined and efficient process for securing planning consent is crucial to making these plans a reality, and creating a lynchpin for Scotland’s next industrial revolution.

This report’s recommendations will build upon the concerted effort made by industry, government and regulators to move these projects closer to deployment, and ultimately deliver clean, safe and secure electricity from around our shores to homes and businesses across Scotland.”

With the findings of this report and the anticipated publication of the Scottish Government’s Agri-Renewables Strategy later in the year it is hoped that 2012 can see the further acceleration of Scotland’s renewable energy capacity.