Gavin Williamson MP accepted in his surgery today(10/11/23) a ProWA -type view of the central role of offshore wind in energy security and reversing climate change. The recent Contracts for Difference AR5 round was a massive disappointment, resulting in no new offshore wind contracts. Gavin agreed to speak to the energy minister about securing floating turbines, a realistic strike price, and a timescale more urgent than the AR6 round.
Our key partners should be the Scandinavians – Ørsted, Equinor and Vattenfall. They are now struggling and writing down profits. Ørsted has been given a S&P profits warning. Three reasons are given: a. supply chain costs, b. interest rates, c. absence of tax credits. The first might be remedied by the UK starting to build a turbine construction capacity and floating cranes. The second, interest rates, is what CfD was designed to remedy. Vattenfall had already signalled that it could not cover its costs at a strike price of £48, so stopped work on one of its Norfolk fields. Despite this, the Energy department under Mr Shapps seems to have been preoccupied with the hundred new oil drilling licences and offered wind only a miserly £44 per megawatt hour, so no bids were received. Tax credits are for exploratory high-risk entrepreneurs, but are routinely given for routine oil drilling companies, but not for floating turbines that have to generate electricity during force ten gales.
Other renewable energy strategies of course have a contribution – solar, onshore wind, hydro-electricity, insulation – but the numbers give the priority. The first Dogger Bank turbine came on stream recently immediately delivering 13 megawatts – enough to power the biggest conurbation in the South Staffs constituency. A typical rooftop solar array might take nine years at 4kW peak to offset the embodied carbon in its manufacture. The new minister, Claire Coutinho, could get a grip and bring wind into her NSTA. The complete absence of floating turbines, despite an attractive strike price offer of £116, must be remedied asap. Equinor has floating turbines at its Tampen oil field ready to tow, to some point on the UK coast with a high voltage grid connection. The first floating turbine may be the “TwinHub”, which bought up the Cornish wave hub, which had never produced a kilowatt in nine years. With effective leadership from DESNZ the UK could have a 100% zero carbon day in 2024.