A lot of wind? PM says all homes to be powered by offshore renewables by 2030
Updated: Oct 9, 2020
It certainly made for an eye-catching headline but Boris Johnson’s declaration on offshore wind to the virtual Conservative Party Conference this week demands closer inspection. Johnson said that as part of the government’s “Build Back Greener” strategy, £160 million would be provided to increase the UK offshore wind capacity so that every home in the UK would be powered by electricity from this source.
The investment would “rapidly” create 2,000 new construction jobs and the current capacity of 10 gigawatts (GW) would be increased to 40GW by 2030 which is an increase of 10GW from the previous government target set in March 2019.
None of this, however, is new news. Increasing offshore wind capacity to that level was part of the Conservative party’s election manifesto in 2019 and in line with projections published by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) in August.
Johnson, in his conference speech, did indicate that his pledges were the first part of a “ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution” to be set out later in the year. The announcement was welcomed by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) although they tempered their approval by reiterating that “similarly bold commitments to cut emissions from our buildings, industry, transport and land” were needed.
There was no such restraint from some of Britain’s main unions. GMB national secretary, Jude Brimble, said the PM is “relying on powers the UK may or may not have post-Brexit” adding that the promises looked like “nothing more than hot air”. Unite Scotland secretary, Pat Rafferty, dismissed a commitment to manufacture 60% of the turbines domestically as “rehashed rhetoric”.
In February, Aurora Energy Research costed the Conservatives manifesto pledge to reach 40GW by 2030 as requiring £50 billion worth of investment. The government have always indicated that the bulk of investment required to increase offshore wind capacity should come from private sector with the newly-pledged £160 million being used to upgrade ports and infrastructure to support the increased capacity
Government efforts to alleviate economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic whilst providing an adequate medical response have stretched resources to the limit. Sympathy is in short supply, however, as more and more reports emerge of government errors, questionable decisions and the uncontested award of massive contracts to companies with close links to the Conservatives.
There has also been dismay at the £27 billion investment in road-building set out in March 2020 which will exacerbate carbon emissions and could even derail the net-zero carbon pledge made in 2019.