The £3 billion Beatrice wind farm, the largest offshore scheme in Scotland, is one of eight renewables projects to be awarded a “contract for difference” that will set the price paid for its power for 15 years.
Together, the schemes will generate 4.5GW of electricity – enough to power more than three million homes.
Announcing the deals yesterday as part of the UK government’s reform of the electricity market, Energy Secretary Ed Davey said as well as helping the country reach its climate targets, the latest green energy drive would see consumers paying an extra 2 per cent for their energy.
But he insisted the increase was part of a bigger picture, and the overall impact of government policy would cut energy bills.
In the long term, the projects will create 8,500 jobs, attract £12bn in private investment and prove “critical” in securing Britain’s clean energy supply, Mr Davey said.
“If you see something in isolation, yes, you can say, ‘Well, that’s putting up costs a bit’. But actually, if you take the whole package, not only are we reducing people’s bills overall but we’re getting the secure, clean energy that we need to make sure our consumers and our businesses get the energy they need.”
He added: “It’s practical reforms like these that will keep the lights on and tackle climate change, by giving investors more certainty.”
The eight projects could cost up to £1bn in subsidies annually, but the government says they will attract more than this in investment. Low-carbon support payments for the projects are estimated at around £11 per household in 2020, or 2 per cent of an average electricity bill.
The Beatrice project, which got the go-ahead from the Scottish Government last month, will stand 14 miles off the Caithness coast in the Outer Moray Firth and will generate up to 750MW of green electricity.
Lindsay Leask, of green industry body Scottish Renewables, said it was “greatly encouraging” that a Scottish project had won a government contract.
“This decision will help kick-start the offshore wind sector in Scotland, which has the potential to provide thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of inward investment to our country while also making a significant contribution to Scotland’s ambitious 2020 renewable energy targets,” she said.
SSE Renewables, the key developer of the Beatrice scheme, said the agreement would move the project forward.
Director of offshore renewables, Finlay McCutcheon, said: “To be able to progress any offshore wind project, investors need, amongst other things, clarity over the regulatory framework. Securing an investment contract from the UK government provides the project with this clarity and will enable further investment to continue through 2014.”
But he said there remained a “significant” amount of work to be done before the project was completed in early 2016.
Estimates suggest the projects – which include four other offshore wind schemes and three biomass plants – will generate 14 per cent of the UK’s green energy by the end of the decade.
The government says they will cut annual carbon dioxide emissions by around ten million tonnes compared with fossil fuel generators and help the UK reach goals to get 15 per cent of energy from renewables by 2020.