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MPs probe UK energy gap as offshore wind goal branded 'woeful'

Lawmakers launch inquiry into 'giant hole' left by shelved nuclear plants amid warning offshore wind target won't fill it

UK lawmakers will begin an inquiry into a “giant hole” in energy policy left by the collapse of nuclear projects, amid claims that the newly-launched offshore wind sector deal is “woefully inadequate” to fill the gap.

The House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, chaired by Labour MP Rachel Reeves, will probe how shelved investment decisions over nuclear plants at sites such as Moorside and Wylfa “have left the UK facing a giant hole in its energy policy”.

“This heightens concerns that the government is not doing more to encourage alternatives such as offshore wind and other renewables,” said Reeves.

Offshore wind to supply one-third of UK power by 2030

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John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, branded as “woefully inadequate” the government’s new offshore wind ‘sector deal’ with its target to reach 30GW of capacity by 2030, and called for more renewables to fill the future supply shortfall.

Sauven warned as the new nuclear reactor programme now appears unlikely to produce more than one new power station by 2030, and certainly not the six planned, there is a huge shortfall in the UK’s projected capacity looming in the second half of the next decade.

A Greenpeace UK briefing called Filling the Energy Gap calls for wind and solar capacity to be tripled in the UK between now and 2030, with offshore wind the future backbone of the nation's energy system.

“Renewables is a technology where the UK is already a global leader. And we could turn that leadership into more jobs and opportunities to export British know-how to the rest of the world,” said Sauven.

The study concludes that offshore wind will need to hit at least 45GW by 2030, and possibly more, depending whether the government also supports more solar and onshore wind.

The environmental group makes the case for a UK solar target of at least 40GW by 2030, with the money made available, as necessary, from the £557m ($732m) the government has allocated for contracts-for-difference support to bid in future auctions.

'Now offshore wind can set sights on 50% UK electricity share'

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It calls for an onshore wind goal of at least 30GW by 2030, delivered through giving the immediate go-ahead to 4GW that is ready to build, and confirming repowering of all existing sites.

“Beyond that, the government must allow onshore wind to bid in CfD auctions where planning permissions are obtained, and alter planning law to enable small scale onshore wind projects to continue in England where there is community acceptance,” says the briefing document.

The UK government is considering publishing an energy white paper in the summer of 2019. However, there is as yet no clarity on what it might cover, coming at a time when government priorities are taken up with its ongoing Brexit problems.

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