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Scotland reaps benefits of onshore wind, as England forges ahead offshore



RenewableUK’s latest annual report “Wind Energy in the UK” shows that Scotland is taking the lead in deploying onshore wind, while England is lagging behind and is therefore missing out on some of the economic benefits that the onshore wind industry brings. However, England is racing ahead in the offshore wind sector.

The report notes that over 60% of UK onshore wind projects are now installed and operational in Scotland, and that Scottish onshore wind is now generating a higher annual turnover (£211 million) for the UK overall than England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined, as the total UK onshore wind turnover from capital spend in 2014/15 was £402 million.

During the 12 months covered by the report (July 2014 – June 2015), half of all construction activity and over 70% of new consents were in Scotland. In contrast, only 25% of capacity and less than 10% of new consents are in England – the lowest consenting rate in the UK.

The UK’s offshore wind sector remains focused in England, with almost 1.4 gigawatts of offshore wind constructed in English waters in 2014/15, meaning the benefits of construction and operation are being felt most by coastal English communities, such as Grimsby and Lowestoft.

Scottish offshore wind saw success in 2014/15 in securing financial support (in the form of new Contracts for Difference) from Government, and 2.3GW of capacity consented in 2014/15. However, this was still in contrast to the 4.9GW of new capacity consented in England last year.

£1.25 billion was invested directly into the UK because of wind energy in 2014/15; a £402m turnover for UK companies involved in onshore wind and £840m spent in the UK in offshore wind. More than 30,500 people in Britain depend on the wind industry for their livelihoods, with 15,500 direct and 15,078 indirect jobs.

In a survey for the report, 36% of RenewableUK’s member companies said they expected to grow by 10% or more over the next 18 months. However, 73% described the investment climate as less favourable than the previous 18 months (up from 48% the previous year), and 42% expected to decrease investment. Nearly 90% of companies said Government policy has become less favourable to renewables, compared to only 23% in 2011.

RenewableUK’s Chief Executive Maria McCaffery said: “We hope this report will serve as a wake-up call to Government, proving that the wind industry is delivering a substantial amount of clean power, investment and jobs to Britain – despite mixed messages from Ministers.

“As this report notes, the Government has yet to set out its long term plan for energy policy. Ministers have stated that their objective is cutting carbon at the lowest cost to consumers, so it is difficult to understand why they are undermining investor confidence in the energy sector as a whole by announcing sudden unexpected changes in policy. This is especially true regarding onshore wind which is the lowest cost clean technology and is set to be cheaper than new gas by 2020, so it deserves to retain its place in our energy mix rather than being excluded from it.”

The new study, unveiled at RenewableUK’s annual conference in Liverpool this morning, also notes that wind now generates 10% of the nation’s electricity needs. More than 2GW of capacity was installed in 2014/15 – a growth of 18%, bringing total UK capacity to over 13GW. This powers the equivalent of more than 8 million British homes, businesses and factories. Overall, 25% of the UK’s electricity is now generated from renewable sources.

Commenting on RenewableUK’s report, WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “This report makes clear the important role that wind power plays in supporting jobs and the economy across the country. If Scotland and the UK are to cut carbon emissions and decarbonise the power sector, then it’s vital that wind power be continued to be deployed here. However, just as critical is the urgent need to begin rolling out offshore wind in Scottish waters.

“This study underlines why we need to see continued political support for renewables both north and south of the border. With the right policies in place, Scotland could become the first EU country to have an almost entirely renewable generation system by 2030 – enabling every home and business to be powered by clean energy. That’s why, with the Holyrood elections rapidly approaching, we’re looking to all parties to commit to this vision and for them to set out how they’d cut energy demand and support the continued deployment of renewables.”