DECC rues offshore wind's knockers

There is an exasperating “disconnect” between the real progress being made in UK offshore wind and the often pessimistic coverage the sector attracts in the mainstream press, claim government officials.

Speaking to reporters yesterday after the London Array Phase 2 was scrapped and Dogger Bank was scaled back, senior officials at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) expressed frustration about the negative tone and lack of nuance in the British media’s coverage of offshore wind in recent months.

The Dogger Bank and London Array announcements are “a very natural thing” and “reflect the fact that the industry is maturing and focusing on the most practical projects”, said a DECC official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“It’s important to emphasise that [these announcements] don’t have an impact on the pre-2020 pipeline,” the official says, adding that both Dong and E.ON – two members of the London Array consortium – are progressing other projects in UK waters.

The notion that the UK’s mid-term offshore wind market is withering is “not necessarily true”, the official says, noting that 12 projects applied for an early Contract for Difference.

“We’ve got more projects [looking for an early CfD] than we can afford,” he says. “So something is disconnected between the narrative ... and what actually appears to be happening.”

“What’s frustrating is that some of the story isn’t being told.”

With “a better understanding of the pipeline”, DECC now believes the UK will have 10GW-11GW of offshore wind capacity installed by 2020 – including the 3.6GW that is already installed and the 1.4GW currently under construction.

That would mean the UK will add about 950MW of capacity annually over the next six years.

“Beyond that, the pipeline and level of delivery will depend on the degree of cost reduction the sector delivers,” the official says.

But “it’s very clear that offshore wind is likely to play a very important role not only to 2020, but also beyond”.

The official would not be drawn on whether such a market will be big enough to secure a turbine factory in the UK, or the state of negotiations with Siemens regarding its proposed factory along the River Humber.

But “there are lots of people working across the whole of Whitehall trying to secure Tier One and other investments”, the official insists.