Maria McCaffery: 2012 the year for wind to fly

Wind power is at the forefront of many nation’s switch to clean energy, but critics say it is too expensive and too unreliable.

In the first article of RTCC’s week-long focus on wind, Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive of RenewableUK, the trade association representing the wind, wave and tidal energy industries, looks at whether 2012 could be the start of a wind boom.

By Maria McCaffery

The wind industry is in a buoyant mood at the start of 2012.

Several key Government announcements made within the last six months show a commitment in Westminster and Whitehall to building the low-carbon economy this country needs and deserves.

Renewable UK welcomed the publication of DECC’s Renewable Energy Roadmap in July, which sets targets of 18 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity for offshore wind by 2020, and 13GW for onshore.

We currently have 5.8GW installed, and we are confident that we can meet these ambitious targets, as the deployment curve continues to rise steadily upwards.

Certainty in support

On the issue of financial support for the wind industry, the long-awaited Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) banding review announcement finally came in October.

We were pleased to note the Government’s commitment to boost financial support for wave and tidal projects to 5 ROCs from 2013.

Although the plans to downgrade the level of financial support for onshore wind from 2013 onwards (from 1 ROC to 0.9), and offshore wind from 2015 (2 ROCS to 1.9 in 2015, and 1.8 ROCs in 2016) will have an impact in deployment, we recognise that the reduction might have been even greater, so we are determined to work with Government in a positive manner on this issue.

RenewableUK scored a major victory by assuring that various amendments were made to the Government’s Localism Bill, such as the removal of a provision for local referendums on planning issues, which could have seriously damaged onshore deployment levels.

This shows that the Government is listening to our concerns, and adjusting its plans accordingly.

We’re awaiting further details on the Government’s plans for Electricity Market Reform (EMR).

We have accepted the principle of a Contracts for Difference Feed-in Tariff which will replace the ROC, but we need to see more detail on how this new financial support mechanism will work in practice.

The green jobs reality

The wind energy sector has huge job creation potential says Maria McCaffery, CEO, RenewableUK

Job creation in the wind industry is continuing even though other sectors are contracting during the economic downturn.

In December alone, Siemens submitted a planning application to build a wind turbine factory in Hull which will employ 700 people, and many more in the supply chain.

The wind turbine tower manufacturer Mabey Bridge in Chepstow announced plans to double its workforce to nearly 200, and to operate 24 hours a day to meet demand.

Announcements like these serve to boost business confidence and optimism at the start of 2012.

RenewableUK has published a report demonstrating the employment potential of the sector between now and 2021, outlining various market development scenarios.

Under the medium growth scenario, nearly 90,000 people will be working in the wind and marine energy sectors (including the supply chain) by 2021. Research such as this strengthens the mood of optimism in this dynamic sector.

In October, RenewableUK announced the creation of a new organisation called the Renewables Training Network (RTN), which aims to tackle the critical skills shortages within the sector.

I’m confident that the RTN will start to make a real impact in 2012, helping to provide courses at every level for workers wanting to make the transition into industries we represent.

We also have to emphasise the message that we are committed to driving down costs. We are proud that ReneweableUK’s Chairman, Andrew Jamieson, has been appointed Head of the Offshore Wind Cost Reduction Taskforce.

Their aim is to bring the levelised cost of electricity generated offshore down to £100 per megawatt hour (MWh).

We are determined to show that we are committed to offering value for money to the consumer.

Maria McCaffery MBE, Chief Executive, RenewableUK, the trade association representing the wind, wave and tidal energy industries

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