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ECIU cautions that barriers to onshore wind could cost £10bn by 2035

The UK currently has 14GW of onshore wind, which is set to grow to 20GW.

The UK currently has 14GW of onshore wind, which is set to grow to 20GW.

The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) has criticised the lack of governmental support for onshore wind, highlighting that by 2035 the shortfall in the rollout of the technology could cost each household £125.

It follows the release of the British Energy Security Strategy on 7 April, which – despite rumours that the government was set to triple onshore wind targets in the run-up to the document – provided little additional support or ambition for the technology.

This was met by disappointment from a number of groups, with many highlighting the broad public support – onshore wind is supported by 80% of the population, a figure that rises to 87% when households get cheaper bills due to local wind farms – and low cost of the technology.

Currently, the UK has 14GW of onshore wind; 8.5GW in Scotland, 2.9GW in England, 1.1GW in Wales and 1.2 GW in Northern Ireland, according to government data. Based on turbines currently under construction and projects that have received planning permission, this is set to rise to 20GW.

There are additional projects that are under development and could benefit from the Contracts for Difference (CfDs) scheme – with onshore wind taking part in the current auction, the first time it's been able to since 2015 – however, this is not guaranteed.

ECIU analysis found that by 2030, if onshore wind stayed at the guaranteed 20GW as opposed to growing to the rumoured interim target of 30GW, the shortfall would effectively cost £4 billion annually if there was another gas crisis. This is the equivalent to £50 per household.

Record high gas prices throughout 2021 and into 2022 – where they have become increasingly volatile due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine – have led to dozens of energy suppliers going bust and the energy price cap being raised by 54%.

If such a crisis was again repeated in 2035, and onshore wind remained at 20GW leaving a 25GW shortfall, this would cost £10 billion the ECIU found.

“It’s difficult to predict exactly what the power system of the future might look like, and hopefully gas will be less dominant over wholesale prices, but these indicative figures show that the price of not investing in onshore wind is high,” said Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin, head of analysis at ECIU.

“If the build-out of onshore wind is slowed again, in the event of another gas crisis those MPs falsely claiming turbines are unpopular could have to explain to their constituents why they are paying an additional £125 on their bills.”

There have been repeated calls in recent months for further support for onshore wind to ensure it can play a significant role in the transition to a decarbonised energy system in the UK. This includes RenewableUK calling for the removal of the limit on the amount of onshore wind capacity that can go ahead within CfDs, and a group of charities led by Possible calling for the removal of planning permission barriers for the technology.

In response to the British Energy Security Strategy, Current± is hosting a webinar tomorrow (20 April) at 10am BST, to discuss the opportunities it presents. To join panelists from IPPR, Modo Energy and Energy UK for the Current± Briefings: Assessing the opportunities and ambition of the British Energy Security Strategy webinar, register here.

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