Scotland reaps economic benefits of onshore wind projects

September's unusual weather led to green energy boom. Picture: Ian Rutherford

September's unusual weather led to green energy boom. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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RenewableUK’s latest annual report “Wind Energy in the UK” shows that Scotland is taking the lead in deploying onshore wind, while England is lagging behind and is therefore missing out on some of the economic benefits that the onshore wind industry brings. However, England is racing ahead in the offshore wind sector.

The report notes that over 60 per cent of UK onshore wind projects are now installed and operational in Scotland, and that Scottish onshore wind is now generating a higher annual turnover (£211 million) for the UK overall than England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined, as the total UK onshore wind turnover from capital spend in 2014/15 was £402 million.

The wind industry is delivering a substantial amount of clean power, investment and jobs to Britain – despite mixed messages from Ministers

Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive, RenewableUK

During the 12 months covered by the report (July 2014 - June 2015), half of all construction activity and over 70 per cent of new consents were in Scotland. In contrast, only 25 per cent of capacity and less than 10% of new consents are in England – the lowest consenting rate in the UK.

The UK’s offshore wind sector remains focused in England, with almost 1.4 gigawatts of offshore wind constructed in English waters in 2014/15, meaning the benefits of construction and operation are being felt most by coastal English communities, such as Grimsby and Lowestoft.

Scottish offshore wind saw success in 2014/15 in securing financial support (in the form of new Contracts for Difference) from Government, and 2.3GW of capacity consented in 2014/15. However, this was still in contrast to the 4.9GW of new capacity consented in England last year.

£1.25 billion was invested directly into the UK because of wind energy in 2014/15; a £402m turnover for UK companies involved in onshore wind and £840m spent in the UK in offshore wind. More than 30,500 people in Britain depend on the wind industry for their livelihoods, with 15,500 direct and 15,078 indirect jobs.

In a survey for the report, 36 per cent of RenewableUK’s member companies said they expected to grow by 10 per cent or more over the next 18 months. However, 73 per cent described the investment climate as less favourable than the previous 18 months (up from 48% the previous year), and 42 per cent expected to decrease investment. Nearly 90 per cent of companies said Government policy has become less favourable to renewables, compared to only 23 per cent in 2011.

RenewableUK’s Chief Executive Maria McCaffery said: “We hope this report will serve as a wake-up call to Government, proving that the wind industry is delivering a substantial amount of clean power, investment and jobs to Britain – despite mixed messages from Ministers.

“As this report notes, the Government has yet to set out its long term plan for energy policy. Ministers have stated that their objective is cutting carbon at the lowest cost to consumers, so it is difficult to understand why they are undermining investor confidence in the energy sector as a whole by announcing sudden unexpected changes in policy.”

The new study, unveiled at RenewableUK’s annual conference in Liverpool this morning, also notes that wind now generates 10% of the nation’s electricity needs. More than 2GW of capacity was installed in 2014/15 - a growth of 18%, bringing total UK capacity to over 13GW. This powers the equivalent of more than 8 million British homes, businesses and factories. Overall, 25% of the UK’s electricity is now generated from renewable sources.

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