Out-Law News 2 min. read

Announcements boost offshore wind industry across UK

The development of offshore wind power across the UK has been boosted by recent announcements made by the UK government and devolved administrations in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Earlier this week, the UK government announced that £31.6 million of public funds is being awarded to 11 projects across the UK to support the development of floating offshore wind technologies, with private investment bringing total funding for those projects to more than £60m.

Support for offshore wind generation was also announced by the Northern Ireland government in its recent energy strategy action plan, which confirmed the administration’s commitment to engage with the Crown Estate on reaching an agreement for leasing areas of the seabed to developers under a competitive process, so as to deliver 1GW of offshore wind capacity from 2030.

The Northern Irish plans follow the recent announcement by Crown Estate Scotland of the award of seabed leases to 17 potential new offshore wind projects, following the first ‘ScotWind’ Scottish offshore wind leasing round in over a decade.

Energy project finance expert James Todd of Pinsent Masons said the new funding announcement by the UK government for floating offshore wind projects was “a further positive development for floating offshore wind in the UK” after floating offshore projects had prominently among the successful ScotWind leasing round applicants.

“It is essential that we maximise the efficacy and opportunity for floating offshore wind technology to ensure the optimum possible return both in terms of megawatts deployed and jobs created in the sector,” Todd said. “The best way of achieving those twin objectives is to invest in innovation and supply chain. This announcement is a significant step in that direction, and a strong statement of intent from government, and is hopefully a clear indicator of intensified focus and investment in the floating offshore wind sector from both public and private sector actors, as we look to develop the sector throughout this decade and beyond.”

“It is well recognised that maximising deployment of floating technology is core to unlocking all areas of the UK seabed for offshore wind and thereby to charting a course to ‘net zero’. The government’s target of deploying 1GW of floating offshore wind by 2030 reflects this and many observers believe we could actually go quite a lot further in that respect,” he said.

Belfast-based Matthew McMurray, also of Pinsent Masons, said outline details of the policy work to be undertaken in relation to offshore wind in Northern Ireland would be welcomed by developers.

The Northern Ireland government’s energy strategy action plan outlined plans to double the size of Northern Ireland’s low carbon and renewable energy economy to more than £2 billion turnover by 2030 and make the country “a leading low-carbon innovation hub”. It set out plans to meet at least 70% of Northern Ireland’s electricity consumption from a diverse mix of renewable sources, set up a new support scheme to enable the development of a diverse mix of renewable electricity technologies including for the offshore sector, and explore potential changes in the law to support “low carbon heat”.

A £10m fund to support green technology innovation was also announced, and specific “significant” further funding for hydrogen projects was also trailed. The government added that it would also “develop a business case to deliver a Hydrogen Centre of Excellence”.

Further plans to cut energy savings by 25% in buildings and industry by 2030 were also announced, which is to be underpinned by new energy efficiency schemes for both domestic and non-domestic property, among other initiatives. Other actions outlined include plans to bolster electric vehicles infrastructure in Northern Ireland.

McMurray said the objectives set and proposals outlined in the energy strategy action plan can only be achieved if policymakers embed the goal of ‘net zero’ into statutory duties and decision-making, as this would encourage “the necessary investment to come forward”.

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