A key UK government advisory body said 75GW of offshore wind off the nation’s coasts would help Britain reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
The huge deployment was one of a string of measures cited by the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) as it recommended the net-zero goal, which it said would end the UK’s contribution to global warming and help deliver global targets under the Paris Climate Agreement.
The 75GW of offshore wind would be a huge step beyond the current target on the sector’s horizon – the 30GW ambition for 2030 foreseen under the government’s recent ‘sector deal’ with the industry.
According to the CCC’s report, the 75GW “would require up to 7,500 turbines and could fit within 1-2% of the UK seabed, comparable to the area of sites already leased for wind projects by [seabed landlord] the Crown Estate”.
The chair of the UK’s Offshore Wind Industry Council and Orsted’s country manager for offshore wind, Benj Sykes, told Recharge after the sector deal was announced that the 30GW was a “stepping stone” on the route to at least 50GW by mid-century.
Sykes said of the CCC’s latest recommendations: “The Committee on Climate Change is suggesting a tenfold increase in offshore wind capacity by 2050.
“This is a clear signal to industry and government to aim high when it comes to our renewable energy supply. That’s good news for consumers as offshore wind is one of the lowest cost power sources we have, and good news for jobs in the UK.”
Other recommendations by the CCC include massive electrification of the UK’s economy, development of hydrogen infrastructure for energy-intensive applications, an earlier than planned switch to electric vehicles, use of carbon capture and storage (CCS), and wholesale greening of UK domestic properties.
The CCC said the net-zero goal, which would be a step beyond the 80% emissions reduction currently targeted by the UK for 2050, was achievable thanks to technological advances and dramatic falls in costs in the renewable energy sector.
Wind-rich Scotland, with its potential for energy storage and abundant land, has the potential to hit net-zero five years earlier in 2045, the CCC reckons.
Lord Deben, chairman of the CCC, said: “We can all see that the climate is changing and it needs a serious response. The great news is that it is not only possible for the UK to play its full part, but it can be done within the cost envelope that Parliament has already accepted.
“The government should accept the recommendations and set about making the changes needed to deliver them without delay.”
The UK government is currently under pressure to recast its energy policy more firmly around renewables, or face a serious energy gap caused by the problems facing the new nuclear programme that is supposed to be the other pillar of its decarbonisation strategy.
The UK's secretary for business, energy and industrial strategy, Greg Clark, said: “To continue the UK’s global leadership we asked the CCC to advise the government on how and when we could achieve net zero. This report now sets us on a path to become the first major economy to legislate to end our contribution to global warming entirely.”
The government will “respond in due course” to the CCC's recommendations, Clark added.