The UK government has promised once again to make a massive investment in offshore wind energy. Speaking at the Conservative party conference, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the renewable would power every home in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by 2030. “Your kettle, your washing machine, your cooker, your heating, your plug-in electric vehicle, the whole lot of them will get their juice cleanly and without guilt from the breezes that blow around these islands,” he told attendees who, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, were watching the event remotely.
To meet that goal, the UK will need to generate at least 40GW of energy from offshore wind. The government had previously committed to a 30GW target through an ‘Offshore wind Sector Deal’ announced in March 2019. Johnson then promised to increase that number to 40GW if his party won the general election last December. Following the Conservatives’ victory, the figure was referenced again in the Queen’s Speech. A lot has happened since then, though. The coronavirus pandemic has rocked the UK economy and forced the government to spend considerable sums on industry and job protection schemes. Few would be surprised, therefore, if the government had decided to quietly shelve some of its green plans.
According to Johnson, that’s absolutely not the case. He said the government would invest £160 million (roughly $207 million) in ports and factories that can develop “the next generation of turbines.” The Prime Minister also promised to deploy floating turbines that can deliver 1GW of offshore wind energy by 2030. “The Government has raised the ambition for offshore wind and renewables, and our industry is ready to meet the challenge,” Hugh McNeal, CEO of trade association RenewableUK said.
According to Aurora Energy Research, however, though, “almost £50 billion in capital investment” is required to meet the 40GW target. The UK has roughly 10GW of offshore wind power at the moment, so a terrific number will need to be constructed over the next decade. “An average annual installation rate of 260 turbines will need to be sustained over five years, equivalent to one turbine installed every weekday throughout the whole of the 2020s,” Aurora Energy Research calculated back in February.
As the Financial Times reports, the Prime Minister’s speech was a teaser for a broader set of proposals that will be announced later this month. These could cover hydrogen-powered transport, carbon capture technologies, energy-efficient housing and smart cities. The government is also consulting on whether the ban of new fossil fuel cars, currently slated for 2040, should be moved up by five or 10 years. The hope is that all of these measures will help the UK meet its target of hitting net zero carbon emissions by 2050. And, at the same time, create jobs that will offset some of those lost — potentially permanently — by the current pandemic.