Will Apps, Head of Energy Development, reflects on offshore wind’s continuing success

The last 12 months have proven another transformational year for UK offshore wind, laying the foundations for continued responsible growth. The year ahead promises to maintain that momentum.

The Offshore Wind Sector Deal cemented a trajectory for the market to deliver 30GW by 2030.  For our part, it included two clear commitments:

1. to undertake new leasing, and;
2. to establish a collaborative programme of enabling actions for future growth.

We’re pleased to say both of these are advancing strongly.

New leasing activity

We concluded the plan-level Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) for the 2017 Extensions opportunity over the course of the 2019. The result is almost 3GW of new projects alongside existing operational wind farms. 

Offshore Wind Leasing Round 4 - our first major new leasing round in a decade - launched in September 2019, with the pre-qualification process taking us through to 2020. The two-stage Invitation to Tender (ITT) process will conclude later this year followed by the Round 4 plan-level HRA, leading to award of rights in autumn 2021.

To better inform the Round 4 plan-level HRA, we commissioned five priority research projects to help build a quality evidence base. We are pleased that a number of these have now been published with the final report set to be completed later this year.

The outcome of the third Contracts for Difference (CfD) allocation round in September 2019 heralded a turning point for UK offshore wind. It saw the success of 5GW of projects on the Dogger Bank, at prices below the reference prices set by Government - essentially progressing without subsidy. When combined with projects either in operation or construction, a total over 19GW of capacity is now committed. In addition, 16GW of legacy Round 3 projects is progressing to be ready for future allocation rounds.

Round 4, combined with 2017 Extensions projects, adds to the existing development pipeline. Collectively the UK portfolio could total more than 45GW in 2021, not including any capacity enabled by Crown Estate Scotland’s leasing process, exceeding the 40GW deployment ambition for 2030 set by the new Government.

Responsible future growth

In 2019, the UK became the first country to make a legally binding commitment to net zero greenhouse gases by 2050. It is widely predicted that offshore wind will provide a significant and increasing role in this transition, but governments, stakeholders and industry will need to work together to make this a reality. It will be critical to balance the benefits of such a scale-up with the pressures created in the environment, both offshore and onshore.

Our strategic enabling actions programme is intended to support this journey, via two broad ambitions:

  • to provide high quality data and evidence to advance the understanding of offshore wind deployment and the impact on the marine and onshore environment
  • to bring together all relevant parties to develop a common understanding and take coordinated actions to address challenges

Over the course of 2019 we worked to define the focus of the programme in partnership with Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs; along with stakeholders. Together, we continue to take the necessary actions to responsibly enable future offshore wind projects. Stay up to date on this important work here.

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