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Doubling onshore wind could reduce bills by £16.3bn finds RenewableUK

Currently around 600MW of onshore wind is being consented annually, but this needs to more than double for net zero.

Currently around 600MW of onshore wind is being consented annually, but this needs to more than double for net zero.

Doubling the UK’s onshore wind capacity by 2030 would reduce consumer bills by £16.3 billion over the course of the decade.

The cost of electricity from new onshore wind projects is now lower than the wholesale electricity price, and is forecast to get even cheaper, according to RenewableUK’s new Onshore Wind Industry Prospectus.

As such the trade association is urging the government to double its current UK onshore capacity target, allowing it to play a greater role in reaching a net zero electricity system by 2035 – a pledge announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this month.

Doubling capacity would not only lead to an annual saving of £25 for every household, it would also generate £45 billion of economic activity and create 27,000 full-time jobs in the sector, including its supply chain. The onshore wind sector could sustain as much as 70% UK content as well.

In particular, Scotland is set to benefit from the growing onshore wind sector, with 17,000 of the new jobs set for there, while England would see 6,000, Wales 3,000 and Northern Ireland 1,000.

Along with the Onshore Wind Industry Prospectus, RenewableUK has today released new polling conducted by Survation that shows 72% of the public want the government to set a long-term target for wind ahead of COP26 in Glasgow in November. Support for such a target is even higher amongst Conservative voters, with 74% in favour.

The government should work pro-actively with the onshore wind sector to boost jobs and local business in onshore wind, according to 74% of those surveyed.

“As it’s one of the cheapest ways to generate new power, onshore wind will reduce energy bills for consumers who are being hit hard by massive increases in gas prices,” said CEO of EDF Renewables and chair of RenewableUK’s Onshore Wind Steering Group, Matthieu Hue.

“It can also create tens of thousands of high-quality jobs in parts of the UK which need levelling up. Our Onshore Wind Prospectus makes a clear offer to government that the industry is standing ready to work with ministers to maximise growth in the UK’s supply chain, inward investment and exports.”

The UK needs to install 35GW of onshore wind by 2035 according to the Climate Change Committee in order to reach net zero. However at the moment less than half of the annual capacity needed to reach this goal is being consented. As such, just over 600MW of capacity on average is being installed instead of the 1,250MW needed to stay on track.

Additionally, onshore wind could play a key role in producing green hydrogen to help decarbonise heat, transport and industry. Using onshore wind farms to produce the green gas could generate £1.4 billion of economic activity in total and create 1,000 full-time jobs between now and 2030.

With support, the green hydrogen sector could reach 5GW by 2030, with onshore wind supporting 1.7GW of this.

There has been a particular push for the development of green hydrogen in recent months in the UK, following the government's hydrogen strategy being released in August. A number of companies have committed to the development of green hydrogen, including Octopus Hydrogen and Macquarie’s GIG.

Research from the Energy Networks Association this week suggested that there needs to be an even greater push for the development of green hydrogen, as it could help to circumvent the challenges created by being dependent on imports of natural gas.

RenewableUK sets out a number of actions for both industry and government, to allow them to seize the benefits of a larger onshore wind sector. This includes introducing annual CfD auctions to stimulate more investment – with the first auction onshore wind can participate in for five years set to take place in December.

Beyond this, all four UK nations should reform their planning systems, a new strategy for grid development in Wales should be launched, Ofgem should reform its regulation to sharpen its focus on net zero and older wind farms should be replaced with modern, more efficient turbines when they reach the end of their lifespan.

It noted that currently transmission charges are significantly higher in Scotland where the vast majority of onshore wind development is taking place, and urges Ofgem to take remedial action.

Increasing onshore wind to allow the UK to stay on track for net zero “will require investment in our grid, annual auctions for contracts to generate clean power and reforming the planning system so that the voices of the vast majority of people who support onshore wind are listened to; at the moment less than half the capacity we need to install each year is being approved,” said RenewableUK’s CEO Dan McGrail.

“These actions will unlock the vast economic and environmental opportunities that onshore wind offers. By maximising the benefits of onshore wind, the UK can set a great example to the rest of the world at COP26 in Glasgow, the most important international climate change summit for years.”

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