Caution urged over RO debate

Paul Boughton

The findings of the Carbon Trust's report that wind power has a crucial role to play in the electricity supply challenge by 2015 and beyond have been backed by the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), the UK's leading renewable energy association.

Maximising delivery of wind power both on and offshore over the next 10 years will help close the generation gap as well as delivering substantial carbon emission reductions, says the BWEA.

Onshore wind is set to deliver 5 per cent of UK power in 2010 as identified in BWEA's own research for the Energy Review and is the only technology able to deliver at the scale required to meet the UK Government's 2010 renewable energy targets.

However, harnessing the UK’s huge offshore wind resource will require additional support from Government and the BWEA is looking to the Energy Review to deliver that support. Without it, offshore wind will deliver only a quarter of what is possible by 2015 - 2,000 megawatts (MW) compared with a potential 8,000 MW - a point underlined by the Carbon Trust.

BWEA has significant reservations regarding the detail of some of the Carbon Trust analysis, particularly some of the assumptions around onshore wind which has seen recent substantial cost increases due to huge global demand for turbines. However, the Association agrees with the general thrust of the report, especially regarding the dangers for offshore wind of a 'do nothing' policy out of the Energy Review.

The UK Government's first priority should be to announce a firm 20 per cent target for 2020 but BWEA urges caution over any discussion of dismantling the Renewables Obligation (RO), as CEO Maria McCaffery commented: The RO is a market-based mechanism which has been very successful in bringing forward new investment in the renewables sector; the confidence of these new investors must be safeguarded while extending the benefits of support to newer technologies such as the emerging offshore windwave and tidal stream sectors. The failings that some perceive in the RO mechanism would be largely solved by action to speed up the supply of projects through resolving planning and grid connection delays for the thousands of megawatts of projects currently stuck in the system."

BWEA believes that any proposal to alter the support mechanism for renewables must satisfy some key criteriaparamount of which is maintaining the momentum of onshore wind. It is in no one's interest for development of the most advanced and most readily available new resource to be hindered by inappropriate implemented policy changes. It is also crucial that any new policy brings forward emerging technologies in a timely mannerallowing offshore wind to achieve lift-off in the period 2010-2015followed by the marine renewable technologies of wave and tidal stream.

BWEA's findings for the Energy Review consultationshow that 21 per cent of UK projected electricity needs by 2020 can be met by windwave and tidal power technologies alone. The renewables industry looks forward to receiving clarity and consistency in a policy mechanism which allows onshore wind to deliver the bulk of the 2010 targetswhile unlocking the potential of the UK's unique offshore renewable resources.

The Carbon Trust report'Policy frameworks for renewables' is available to download at www.carbontrust.co.uk/Publications/CTC610.pdf

BWEA's Onshore Wind: Powering Aheadan analysis of the UK onshore wind industry to 2010online at www.bwea.com/pdf/energyreview/AppAOnshore.pdf

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