UK's lessons for Chinese offshore

The UK's experience building an offshore wind sector could be a springboard for China as it harnesses its own resource, according to a research project.

Many of China's 1GW of near-shore projects under development are struggling to get over technical and commercial hurdles, making it difficult to meet government objectives of having 5GW of offshore wind by 2015 and 30GW by 2030, says the Carbon Trust, a British government-industry body.

"China's offshore wind resource is significant and will be critical for the country to help meet its rising energy demand through developing low-carbon energy sources," says the Carbon Trust's Al-Karim Govindji.

"The UK has an important role in offering its experience and learning to ensure that China's vast resource is efficiently exploited. Innovation across a number of areas will be essential to ensure targets are met and to drive cost reduction across the whole sector."

Top of the list of barriers, he says, are in the areas of pricing policy and the "lack of a focused innovation programme".

The Carbon Trust research – supported by the Chinese Wind Energy Association and CECEP Wind-Power and some 20 other Chinese companies – cites several policy instruments, hatched in the UK, that it believes would speed the roll-out of offshore wind in China.

The include creating:

  • a publicly funded R&D programme to commercialise cost-reducing innovation
  • a capital grants scheme to improve government awareness of the commercial realities of developing wind in Chinese waters and support R&D and technology testing
  • a price support mechanism to balance developer incentives with government cost
  • an effective zoning policy to accelerate build-out by relaxing constraints on identified offshore acreage.

Among the recommendations in the reports, which were funded by the British embassy in Beijing, are jump-starting Sino-European joint industry projects, as well as the early creation of leasing zones for future offshore tenders to avoid slowdowns in the consenting process.

China's energy demand is met by coal (70%) and oil (19%), with electricity supply dominated by coal and large-scale hydropower.

Onshore wind has been the main contributor to its renewables targets so far, with total capacity of 75GW, a compound annual growth of 69% between 2001 to 2012.