The UK will increase its 2030 offshore wind target to 40GW from the current 30GW if the governing Conservative Party wins the upcoming general election, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Johnson’s reference to offshore wind came amid a raft of industrial policy announcements as the Conservative leader attempts to secure a majority in the 12 December poll.

The main opposition Labour Party has already pledged to embark on a massive offshore wind build-out that would see 52GW in the water by 2030, also well ahead of the 30GW envisaged under the ‘sector deal’ signed between the government and the industry earlier this year.

The UK is currently the world’s biggest market for offshore wind, with 8.4GW in service, the world’s largest operating project in the 1.2GW Hornsea 1, and a contract-for-difference (CfD) support mechanism that has driven prices down rapidly and awarded 5.5GW of new capacity in September.

The CEO of SSE, one of the big winners in the CfD round, yesterday called for an increase in the target to help the UK achieve its 2050 net-zero emissions goals.

Johnson's announcement was welcomed by the UK's government-industry group the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC).

OWIC co-chair Benj Sykes, who's also UK manager for offshore wind giant Orsted, said: “We welcome this commitment to expand offshore wind in the UK, as it will boost our ability to reach net-zero emissions at low cost using a technology which can deliver at scale.

“The announcement contains a key commitment to taking cross-government actions to enable us to reach 40GW by 2030.”

Sykes added: “We look forward to working with whichever party forms the next government to implement the actions we need to deliver an increased target for offshore wind.

Tom Harries, offshore wind senior associate analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, told Recharge reaching these higher targets will be “tricky”.

“Getting to 40GW by 2030 requires nearly all of the existing pipeline to secure contracts via a timely CfD schedule but at present there is no transparency on the timing of future CfD rounds,” he said. “And prices could rebound if there is insufficient competition in future rounds, jeopardizing the success of future auctions.

“The new UK Crown Estate lease round will boost the pipeline but developing, permitting, financing and commissioning any of that capacity before 2030 will be tight. The same for Crown Estate Scotland leases with the added uncertainty of any dedicated funding for floating projects.”

· add comments from OWIC's Benj Sykes and BNEFs Tom Harries