16 March 2020

Offshore wind - on the road to Net Zero

By Huub den Rooijen, Director of Energy, Minerals and Infrastructure.
This article first appeared in Business Green.

With Net Zero now taking centre stage in boardrooms across the country, many businesses are responding to the urgent need to consider how we reach our climate targets, and by when.  Perhaps less talked about, but equally key, is the need to ensure we’re doing so in a way that is environmentally and ecologically sustainable.

No-one can remain unmoved by the State of Nature report from the end of last year, which identified that 15 per cent of species in the UK are under threat of extinction. Or the recent study of flying insects in Kent, which found that numbers had halved in the space of 15 years.

This same challenge also exists offshore, in a busy seaspace, which is increasingly seen as a central part of the solution to climate change in the form of clean, green wind energy.  

At The Crown Estate, as custodians of the seabed and much of the foreshore around England, Wales and Northern Ireland, we know that it’s vital we ensure growth is achieved in a responsible and co-ordinated way, balancing the UK’s future energy needs with the wide range of interests in the marine environment, where these biodiversity challenges are no less critical.

With the UK’s Offshore Wind Sector Deal celebrating its first anniversary this month, the last 12 months have already seen some significant steps taken on the path to Net Zero, with the years ahead promising to maintain that momentum.

A key commitment for us in the Sector Deal was Offshore Wind Leasing Round 4 (our first leasing of its kind in a decade, and the largest leasing opportunity currently on offer anywhere in the world). It’s now well underway and is set to deliver between 7 and 8.5 GW of new capacity.  These new projects will join a robust pipeline of offshore wind development in the UK, which could take us to well in excess of our current 40 GW target by 2030 – meeting the electricity needs of all the homes in the country, and making a vital contribution to our nation’s climate targets.

It’s easy to underestimate the difficulty of delivering 40 GW by 2030, let alone further growth to 75 GW or more. The spatial impacts of thousands of turbines on ecosystems and communities pose important planning challenges and will require all interested parties to come together to use the best data and evidence to plan ahead.

We’re helping to address these challenges, both by encouraging technological innovation, such as floating wind or hybrid projects, and by working in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders to deliver a programme of enabling actions. This will help to provide the quality data and evidence we need, to understand and address the impacts of further deployment.

Beyond these themes, the sector as a whole is thinking hard about how, as the UK pivots to clean electricity, we ensure we deliver a ’fair transition’ with people and jobs at its heart. The Sector Deal estimates the industry will support 27,000 jobs in the UK by the end of the decade, building centres of expertise in coastal communities around the country and supporting a burgeoning UK supply chain.

We, along with many of our customers, stakeholders and partners are galvanised by a common opportunity – to end the UK’s contribution to climate change, once and for all – and stand ready to help the offshore wind sector play its part.

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