The next government's choices on offshore wind

This debate, held on 13 November 2014, explored the trade-offs the government will need to make for the offshore wind industry between deployment, policy certainty and cost reduction.

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  1. The expert panel included Colin Morgan, regional manager at DNV GL Renewables; Matthew Knight, director of strategy and government affairs at Siemens; Ian Temperton, head of advisory at Climate Change Capital; and Aram Wood, vice president strategy, wind power and technologies at Statkraft. The debate was chaired by Phillip Inman, economics correspondent at The Guardian.
  2. See the short film of the debate below or read on for edited highlights:
  3. Stick or twist? The next government's choices on offshore wind
  4. Matthew Spencer, director of Green Alliance, kicked off the debate. He outlined the need for government to commit to a minimum market size for offshore wind in the 2020s, particularly for the supply chain whose investment timescales are longer than those of developers.
  5. Matthew Knight of Siemens described reaching a situation "where no power station anywhere is built without being underwritten by a government contract, whether they be nuclear or gas".
  6. Stick or twist? The next government's choices on offshore wind
    Stick or twist? The next government's choices on offshore wind
  7. He called for more clarity on "the whole of the energy industry, not just offshore wind...on where we’re going, otherwise it makes everything more expensive".
  8. He added that we should be looking towards 2030 and "try to get consensus on where we’re heading and build policy that delivers that". Agreeing with the conclusion of Green Alliance's report, Matthew stipulated that "steady deployment" is needed for this to be achieved.
  9. Climate Change Capital's Ian Temperton stated that given the limited availability of public funding the current cost of offshore wind is too high.
  10. Stick or twist? The next government's choices on offshore wind
    Stick or twist? The next government's choices on offshore wind
  11. Aram Wood of the Norwegian electricity company Statkraft stated that claims that UK could have 50GW of offshore wind by the 2020s were always known to be unrealistic. However recent market developments have been positive and the industry is well placed to deliver £100/MWh projects by 2020.
  12. During the general discussion which followed, Colin Morgan of DNV GL Renewables highlighted the growth in competition among turbine manufacturers, which will help bring down costs.
  13. Stick or twist? The next government's choices on offshore wind
    Stick or twist? The next government's choices on offshore wind
  14. Matthew Knight said governments should co-operate to bring down costs and that it was only worth pursuing any energy technology if one day costs could be brought down. He said that the challenge for northern Europe remains: "can we build offshore wind at a level that is competitive with generation in other regions".
  15. Ian Temperton highlighted an "existential question" for offshore wind: can a globally cost competitive technology bedeveloped on the basis of the north west Europe market?
  16. Stick or twist? The next government's choices on offshore wind
    Stick or twist? The next government's choices on offshore wind
  17. The chair, Phillip Inman, probed the alternative options available to government: "If I’m a minister, what alternative have I got if I don’t have mass solar? I’ve got to get rid of coal and meet my decarbonisation targets."
  18. Stick or twist? The next government's choices on offshore wind
    Stick or twist? The next government's choices on offshore wind
  19. Ian Temperton replied saying that there isn’t anything else, beside wind, that allows targets to be reached.
  20. Aram Wood highlighted the importance of making sure the UK can reap the benefit of the investment it has made. Continuing modest growth will help offshore wind to continue to come down the cost curve. Changing the funding regime three quarters of the way into the game has not helped.
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