U.K.’s Decade-Long Delay for Offshore Wind Draws Industry Ire

The U.K. pushed back a timetable for offshore wind capacity by a decade to 2030, drawing industry criticism that its plans are “bad for growth, bad for jobs.”

Britain may generate about 18 gigawatts from such turbines by 2030, according to a central scenario released today by the government as part of plans to attract 110 billion pounds ($167 billion) of investment into low-carbon power infrastructure.

In some instances the government is predicting less wind power than its current high estimates for 2020, RenewableUK, a lobby for the clean-energy industry, said in a statement

“The scenarios set out today show that government is still in mixed minds about the role of renewables,” said Maf Smith, its deputy chief executive. “The U.K. has a massive opportunity on offshore wind to get the jobs in as we are deploying the technology first and it would be tragic if we squandered that and let our European competitors take the spoils.”

The timetable, included in a scenario that would see power industry greenhouse-gas emissions cut to 100 grams a kilowatt hour, may hamper Britain’s efforts to lower those by 80 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels. Prime Minister David Cameron has placed the technology at the heart of a plan to replace the fifth of current generation scheduled to retire in a decade.

The government’s energy department said today in reply to a query that it was committed to its target of renewables meeting 30 percent of electricity demand by 2020. Under today’s “high offshore” scenario, assuming technology costs fall, offshore wind would grow more than 10-fold by 2030, it said.

Not Fixed

In its earlier release, the department said the scenarios, aimed at limiting carbon emissions to 50 grams, 100 grams or 200 grams a kilowatt hour, didn’t represent fixed targets and the exact power mix would depend on how technology-costs develop.

The 2030 timetable also assumes 14 gigawatts of onshore wind farms, 14 gigawatts of nuclear power and 5 gigawatts of fossil fuel-fired plants kitted out with equipment to capture carbon emissions and store them underground.

Other scenarios include one with steeper carbon cuts, another with lower reductions, and three with more offshore wind, carbon capture or nuclear power respectively.

The publication today also includes plans for a minimum reliability standard as the U.K. seeks to ensure security of supply while depending on volatile renewable sources like wind, marine and solar. The level will guide how much capacity it will contract from auctions starting late next year to ensure there are enough plants to cover swings in generation and demand.

99.97 Percent

It would seek to ensure power production is 99.97 percent reliable with demand exceeding supply just three hours a year, consultation documents on the department’s website show. “No electricity system can ever be 100 percent reliable and there is always some trade-off between the cost of providing additional back up capacity and the level of reliability,” it said.

Britain should look beyond relying on gas-fired power to secure supply, green group WWF said in an e-mailed statement.

“Instead of locking the country into an excessive dependence on new gas plants, the government should focus on improving the way the U.K. uses, stores and imports energy from its European neighbors at times when supply is tight,” said Nick Molho, head of climate and energy policy at WWF-U.K.

Moving to green generation will cut bills 9 percent or an average 62 pounds a year from 2016 to 2030, the Department of Energy and Climate Change said today in a statement.

“The delivery plan will provide investors with further certainty of government’s intent, so that they can get on and make crucial investment decisions that are supporting green jobs and growth,” Energy Secretary Edward Davey said.

The U.K. is also consulting on plans to pay guaranteed, or strike, prices for generation from wind farms to geothermal power. The so-called contracts for difference will shave 5 billion pounds off the cost of building low-carbon generation by 2030, according to the government.

The public consultation runs for 10 weeks ending Sep. 25 and the government will publish a final version in December.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.