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UK Government urged to set new 2030 targets for renewables

The report’s recommendations include reaching 30GW of onshore wind by the end of the decade

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RenewableUK is urging Ministers, in a recently published report, to commit to specific deployment targets for onshore wind, floating wind, renewable hydrogen and marine energy, in the run-up to the United Nations’ climate change summit in Glasgow in November.

The document, “Raising the bar: the world-leading energy commitments the UK should make ahead of COP26” argues that the Prime Minister’s new target of slashing emissions by 78% by 2035, and reaching net zero emissions by 2050, can only be achieved by setting out clear milestones to be met by 2030. It details the economic opportunities yet to be grasped in renewable energy development in the UK, and the international significance of the UK clarifying its clean energy targets ahead of COP26.

The report’s recommendations include reaching 30 gigawatts (GW) of onshore wind by the end of the decade – enough to power over nineteen and a half million homes. Onshore wind development is critical to UK and global decarbonisation and, as the cheapest form of new power generation, could reduce energy bills as well as supporting 31,000 UK jobs by 2035. RenewableUK is urging the newly elected Governments in Scotland and Wales to set an example to the world by outlining complimentary 2030 onshore wind targets to support an overarching 30GW ambition for the UK. Most future projects will be sited in Scotland and Wales, so both Governments have a vital role to play in encouraging other countries around the world to utilise their vast wind resources ahead of COP26. As well as building new projects, the report highlights the need for policies which enable developers to make the most of the wind farms we already have by ‘repowering’ older turbines with modern state-of the-art technology.

The Government has already set a target of 1GW of floating wind by 2030 – but the industry wants to aim higher and double this within that timeframe to reach 2GW, capitalising on our global lead in this innovative technology. Floating wind enables us to build in much deeper waters than fixed-bottom wind farms, opening up vast areas of seabed. Doing so is critical not only for the development of clean energy in the UK, but also in other countries with deep waters, like Japan, South Africa, and Brazil. The more we build, the faster we can accelerate cost reduction. As the costs of the technology falls, just as they did in fixed offshore wind, we will see global development, UK exports and UK jobs grow in turn.

The report notes that the UK already has a head start in the global race to scale up the production of renewable hydrogen, with ground-breaking trials underway such as the Gigastack project in the Humber and world-class electrolyser manufacturers like ITM Power. RenewableUK is urging Ministers to set a minimum target of 5GW of green hydrogen electrolyser capacity by 2030. This will help to provide clean fuel for sectors which have proved difficult to decarbonise so far, such as shipping and heat for heavy industry. Some of the vast amounts of electricity produced by offshore wind can be used to generate green hydrogen which can be stored and used whenever it’s needed, providing flexibility to our energy system.

The report also calls for the Government to set a 1GW target for marine energy. The UK is a global leader in tidal stream and wave power, with the world’s first tidal arrays generating in Scottish waters and further projects underway in Wales. Through the learning, innovation and economies of scale that comes with deploying new projects, studies suggest that after developing 1GW of marine energy, the cost of the technology will fall to the level of other mainstream forms of low carbon generation such as nuclear power. As such, this commitment would create a new cost-competitive technology for countries around the world to use to support their net zero ambitions, in addition to supporting UK jobs. Tidal stream alone could support 4,000 jobs by 2030. To drive investment and development, marine energy needs a revenue support mechanism. Ministers are actively considering ways to ensure future CfD auctions support the development of marine technologies. RenewableUK supports this, and is also recommending additional measures to support private-sector investment in marine energy, through Government-supported Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), to speed up the growth of the sector.

The document highlights the need for Ministers to continue to work closely with industry to maximise the number of apprenticeships and retraining opportunities for our future workforce as part of the Just Transition to renewables. A new “Just Transition Strategy”, building on investment by industry and new Government funding, would ensure that this transition from carbon intensive industries is inclusive, offering fresh opportunities throughout the country, especially in areas which need leveling up.

The report’s author, RenewableUK’s Head of Public Affairs Nathan Bennett, said:

“The UK has one of the strongest records on decarbonisation in the world. But to get to net zero emissions as fast as possible and ensure we’re maximising jobs and investment, the Government needs to set out a detailed roadmap with specific milestones for the key renewable technologies which will get us there – starting with targets for 2030. We must ensure there are no gaps in our own ambitions if we’re to set the agenda for the rest of the world.

“Over-arching commitments to decarbonise by 2035 and 2050 are a great starting point, but there is so much to be gained by fleshing out comprehensive plans for renewable development which will underpin this. Ministers have already told us they want to see 40 gigawatts of offshore wind built by the end of this decade – now they need to show countries around the world we’re as committed to onshore wind, floating wind, renewable hydrogen and marine energy as we’d like them to be.

“By enhancing our renewable energy targets, the UK doesn’t just show effective leadership on tackling climate change – we will also drive new investment and jobs in the renewable energy supply chain across the UK. We’re in a position to be a world-leader in technologies like floating wind, green hydrogen and marine energy, grasping the export potential of each industry’s inevitable global growth”.

The full report is available to view here.


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