Four years since the UK government scrapped official support for new onshore wind farms, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has formally announced onshore wind will again be eligible to compete in the country’s next renewable auction.
Onshore wind in the United Kingdom has been struggling to gain ground over the last four years after the Government excluded onshore wind from its Contracts for Difference (CfD) competitive auction scheme.
It was last allowed to compete in the UK’s first CfD tender back in 2015 but was then barred from future auctions in 2017. Onshore wind similarly suffered when the government ended the Renewable Obligation support scheme a year earlier than originally planned in 2016.
In that time the onshore wind and renewable energy industry and outside trade bodies have continually advocated for onshore wind to again be allowed to compete for capacity against other technologies such as offshore wind – which has benefited greatly from the relatively constricted approved technologies allowed in the CfD scheme.
Similarly, public support for onshore wind has skyrocketed in recent years, with the latest government polling showing 78% support for onshore wind, and only 6% opposed. A brief sweep through Twitter also shows similar support and praise for the government’s decision to reintroduce onshore wind into its CfD scheme.
Announced on Monday, Secretary of State for Business and Energy Alok Sharma announced that the next round of the country’s Contracts for Difference scheme, which opens in 2021, will be open to renewable technologies including both onshore wind, solar, and floating offshore wind.
“Ending our contribution to climate change means making the UK a world leader in renewable energy,” Sharma said. “We are determined to do that in a way that works for everyone, listening to local communities and giving them an effective voice in decisions that affect them.”
Further details about the size and timing of the auction is needed, but UK renewable energy trade body RenewableUK believe that onshore wind’s inclusion in the next CfD tender will deliver new capacity at prices similar to the low prices seen for offshore wind in last year’s CfD.
“The government is pressing ahead with action to meet our net zero emissions target quickly and at lowest cost to consumers and businesses,” said RenewableUK’s Chief Executive Hugh McNeal.
“Backing cheap renewables is a clear example of the practical action to tackle climate change that the public is demanding, and this will speed up the transition to a net zero economy. As one of the UK’s cheapest power sources, new onshore wind projects will be a huge boost for jobs and investment in local economies across the UK.”
Importantly, and interestingly, this decision to reintroduce onshore wind and other renewable energy technologies into its previously gated Contracts for Difference scheme is an important step towards and visible sign of the country’s commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
Further, this step goes a long way to highlighting UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s willingness to commit and support his predecessor’s net zero commitment – against fears his Trump-like attributes may similarly lead to Johnson obstructing sustainability and climate policies.