The UK was an offshore wind leader in 2013, but how long will it last?
- 30 Jan 2014, 11:20
- Mat Hope
Credit: Andy S-D
The UK was a world leader in offshore wind in
2013, but a new report casts doubt on how long that might
research by industry group, the European Wind Energy
Association (EWEA), shows the UK has the most offshore windfarms
and turbines of any country in Europe. Moreover, almost half of the
wind turbines installed in Europe last year were placed off the
UK's coast, according to the report.
But despite the new developments, the EWEA says the government's
current policies may slow the industry's growth in 2014.
Offshore wind is arguably one of the UK government's renewable
energy success stories.
According to the EWEA's data, 47 per cent of new European
offshore wind power was installed in the UK in 2013. Those turbines
were added to what was already Europe's largest offshore wind
As the pie chart below shows, companies installed more than
twice the amount of offshore wind power in the UK than its nearest
competitor, Denmark, in 2013:
Source: Share of annual offshore wind power
installations per country (megawatts),
The European offshore wind industry - key trends and statistics
2013, European Wind Energy Association
The government has been supporting renewable energy for decades,
but last summer it announced changes to the way the industry would
In June, the government announced a new deal which
guarantees renewable energy providers get paid a set amount for
the electricity they produce until 2020. Offshore wind got a
further boost in December, when the government announced it would
funds earmarked for solar and onshore wind subsidies across to
its offshore cousin - effectively making offshore wind the
government's preferred renewable energy choice.
But despite the government's continued support, the EWEA says
offshore wind's growth is starting to slow.
It's data shows about 25 per cent less offshore wind power was
installed in 2013 than a year before, with almost two-thirds of
investment coming in the first half of the year.
The EWEA says fewer projects were launched in 2013 "due to
regulatory instability" in the UK. One reason for the slowdown is a
lack of faith that the government's current support will be
sustained, the EWEA claims.
article on the EWEA's report pointed to
projects that were cancelled around the same time the
government was considering reforming so-called
green levies. Some papers
suggested at the time that the uncertainty around the
government's policy reforms could have catalysed the
But in both cases, the companies responsible for building the
windfarms said the plans were pulled due to
technical and environmental
difficulties, not the government's policy choices.
Nonetheless, the EWEA
tells the Times that other government decisions may be putting
For instance, the EU recently announced
it would not extend country-specific renewable energy targets
after 2020 - a decision the UK government lobbied for.
Under current rules, the UK is required to get
15 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. But
since the EU's announcement, the government has made investors
refusing to say how much renewable energy it will aim to
The government's pursuit of alternative energy forms such as
shale gas and nuclear
power may also lead investors to question the government's long
term commitment to offshore wind. The chancellor announced
tax breaks for the shale gas industry in the autumn statement,
and the government recently signed a landmark
nuclear deal, which investors could take as a signal that the
government's preference for offshore wind is waning.
So while the UK currently leads the way in offshore
wind power, investors are unclear how committed the government is
to the technology in the long term - and the EWEA says that could
halt offshore wind's progress in 2014.