Even the most ardent sceptics are starting to admit that offshore wind has a place in the global energy mix over the next 50 years. The latest UK auction results show that by their financial close in 2020, we will have offshore wind projects on their way providing clean, green, effectively subsidy-free electricity.
When we set out on key elements of The Crown Estate’s Cost Reduction Pathways Study back in 2011, the sense was that industry needed to show a route to a levelized cost of energy of £100/MWh for projects reaching financial close in 2020.
At the time, this was seen as a huge step forward. Our work showed ample opportunity for this and more. Our deep industry engagement revealed innovation and supply chain development had the possibility to deliver at under £50/MWh by 2020. At the time, industry and especially the finance community pushed back on such “ridiculous” suggestions. It said “no way” to having 10MW turbines bankable by then. It said “no way” would simple, easy-to-install monopiles still be in use with such large turbines. It said that finance for the volumes of offshore wind we are talking about would not be available.
Those of us that had lived through the previous 20 years of “can do” growth in the onshore wind industry, were more confident. 10MW-class turbines have been developed. Finance and the supply chain for projects with these turbines has been forthcoming. The impact in driving down cost of energy has been as great as the analysis suggested. Auction prices down to £39.65/MWh in 2012 terms cannot be directly compared to levelized cost of energy, but certainly beat even the £50/MWh that we saw was eminently achievable. And this was never the end. We have shown further savings stretching over the decades ahead, as long as volumes (and very importantly, the cost of finance) remain attractive.
Offshore wind in UK, the rest of Europe, and now far and wide across our beautiful world, is going to be one of the key elements in reaching “net zero”. Let’s make sure we are not too late in “getting it done”.