New blows to Scottish renewables

Further blows to Scottish renewables as offshore wind projects are going nowhere and community energy is likely to be hit by lower feed-in tariffs.

The Sunday Herald reports that investment poured into the development of three proposed Scottish offshore wind farms is at risk because of continuing delays in securing vital government subsidies. Lindsay Roberts, Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables, said that there was disappointment within the industry that only two of the five offshore wind farm projects have been able to secure contracts to allow them to go to construction. She said:
“Clearly there is frustration for the remaining projects. Well over a year after being granted planning they are still are waiting for their opportunity to compete for contracts through allocation rounds for which no firm dates have been set. It is now imperative that the UK Government commit as soon as possible to a detailed timescale for the next round, and let developers know how much money will be available in it.”

It remains to be seen what impact UK government policy will have on innovative projects such as Hywind, planned to be the world’s largest floating offshore windfarm. An application for a marine licence for the Hywind development off the north east coast has been approved by the Scottish Government. Statoil will develop a pilot park of five floating turbines located some 15 miles off the coast of Peterhead, north of Aberdeen, with a generating capacity of 135GWh each year. It is expected the Hywind Scotland development could power nearly 20,000 homes.

The Sunday Herald also reports that electricity generation subsidies paid to small to medium sized green energy schemes will fall an overall 64% when they are introduced next week. This means that many small-scale wind developments in the planning pipeline will no longer be viable, with community schemes hardest hit. The same applies to solar. Before the changes, the tariffs paid for roof-top solar installations would pay for themselves in eight to 10 years, but under the new tariff it would take around 14 years.

This is all the more disappointing as the year ended strongly for renewables. Several new records were set as the transition from dirty to clean energy continued. Grant Wilson helpfully sets out the notable outcomes.

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The same is true for investment. The UK was “by far” the strongest clean energy investment market in Europe in 2015, with investment up 24% to $23.4 billion. Ironically, much of the surge was driven by offshore wind arrays in the North Sea such as the 580MW Race Bank and 336MW Galloper, with estimated costs of $2.9 billion and $2.3 billion respectively.

So, 2015 was a good year for renewables in terms of output and investment. 2016 doesn’t look nearly so promising.

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