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The Future of Renewable Energy in the UK

In October 2020, Boris Johnson announced a plan to power every home in the UK with wind power by 2030, earmarking a £160 million investment to kickstart the large expansion. The government said the £160 million investment “will see around 2,000 construction jobs rapidly created”. It will also “enable the sector to support up to 60,000 jobs directly and indirectly by 2030, in ports, factories and the supply chains, manufacturing the next generation of offshore wind turbines and delivering clean energy to the UK”.

The sum has been criticised as not being enough for the project. Analysts suggested that reaching 40 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind capacity would require £50 billion of capital investment and the completion of a turbine every weekday for the next 10 years. So what will it take to get there?

Current performance of renewable energy sources

The UK, with its 7,000 miles of coastline, has the greatest potential wind energy resources in Europe. It is already home to the world’s largest offshore wind farm - Walney Extension off the Cumbrian Coast - and projects are underway to build farms double the size.

This year is set to be the greenest on record for the UK in terms of electricity generation, according to National Grid ESO data. Last year saw the highest decarbonisation of electricity with an average of 181 gCO2/KWh from January to November, a 66% drop from 2013’s figure of 529 gCO2/KWh. Energy usage from carbon-intense sources has fallen in the past seven years with National Grid reporting levels of 215 CO2/KWh in 2019.

In the first quarter of 2020, renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, hydropower and bioenergy, provided almost half (47%) of the UK’s electricity, setting a new record. This was up from 35.9% during the same period in 2019. With the addition of nuclear energy and biomass, the overall share of low carbon electricity generation was a record 62.1%, according to a report by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Will Brexit hinder performance?

Under the UK-EU Brexit trade and cooperation agreement, there are little if any changes to the evolution of the respective energy sectors. The energy sector provisions in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement document are stated to “facilitate trade and investment between the Parties in the areas of energy and raw materials, and to support security of supply and environmental sustainability, notably in contributing to the fight against climate change in those areas”.

While the UK ceases to be a member of the European single market, continued flows of energy will be facilitated with new trading agreements to be implemented by April 2022. The aim is to maximise the capacity of both the electricity and gas interconnections.

Another key area of joint activity is the North Sea. The UK and EU will continue to cooperate on the development of renewables, while aiming to meet their respective renewable energy and efficiency targets. Under the agreement, the UK and EU must promote energy efficiency and the use of energy from renewable sources. They must also ensure that support for electricity from renewable sources facilitates their integration in the electricity market.

Will the private sector help boost productivity?

With technological advances, such as floating wind turbines, leading to a rapid rise of offshore wind as a viable and cost-efficient energy alternative, the odds appear in Johnson’s favour. The cost of offshore wind contracts in the UK fell far faster than projected, while the cost of electricity produced by offshore wind has reduced by an astounding 66% since 2012.

As mentioned above, Johnson’s earmarked £160 million may not be enough investment for his wind power dream, with £50 billion being mentioned as a more accurate estimate. So will this mean that the private sector will need to rise to the challenge to make this happen? The government is hopeful.

A major contract auction this spring aims to attract private sector investors, with as much as £20 billion expected to be raised to support offshore, onshore and solar power projects. The latest project to get the green light is the Ørsted’s 2.4GW Hornsea Project Three offshore wind farm.

One of the largest investors in Britain’s renewable energy industry, Keith Anderson, the chief executive of Scottish Power, told the Guardian that the private sector is ready, willing and keen to invest.

He believes it’s the government that will ultimately determine whether or not the UK lives up to its ambitious wind energy agenda. If the UK’s wind power is to soar in the coming decade, the government will need to approve new seabed licences and project contracts at record speed.

How Bunkabin can help

As these new projects come to fruition, it is essential that plans are made to house the construction workers building these new projects. Bunkabin offers temporary site accommodation that could be one useful means of doing this.

Our units are offered on a flexible basis, helping you to provide short, medium or long-term accommodation and welfare facilities to personnel without having to worry about expensive hotel bills.

To find out more about our offerings for the renewable energy sector, visit our Projects page. You can also get in touch with us today by calling 0345 456 7899, or by filling in our online enquiry form.


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