Key steps to enable the UK to end its dependence on gas for electricity within five years are being proposed to the government by RenewableUK.
First among these steps is increasing the amount of new renewable capacity which will be secured in this year’s Contracts for Difference auction, by removing the limit on the amount of onshore wind capacity that can go ahead in the auction and raising the budget for offshore wind.
RenewableUK said there are now more shovel-ready projects than when the government set out its initial ambitions, and that by investing an extra £68 million in the budget for offshore wind, consumers’ exposure to gas can be cut by £1.5 billion.
This is of particular relevance due to the rising energy bills across the UK caused by volatile global gas prices, with the government having repeatedly stressed the need to reduce the UK’s reliance on these through accelerating low-carbon and renewable generation.
The government should also ensure the planning process for renewables moves faster to maximise the capacity that can be secured from annual auctions starting in 2023, RenewableUK said. It suggested planning decisions for offshore wind should be taken within a statutory timeframe of one year, with it currently taking at least two to three years.
The trade body added that the planning regime for onshore wind in England is in urgent need of reform, with nearly all new projects blocked from going ahead.
This is something RenewableUK also called for last month, while a group of charities led by Possible also highlighted the need for planning reforms for onshore wind.
RenewableUK said there are other key reforms needed so that regulation doesn’t undermine investment in renewables, stating that Ofgem should urgently enable new grid investment to bring forward renewable projects faster and tackle the “enormous disparities” in the way renewable energy generators are charged for using the grid.
Indeed, RenewableUK said projects in Scotland pay 15 times more for this than generators in England and Wales, with new rules also needed to bring forward grid-scale batteries as fast as possible.
The disparity in Transmission Network Use of System (TNUoS) costs between Scotland and the rest of the UK is an issue repeatedly highlighted by a variety of organisations, including Scottish Renewables and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) – the latter of which has called the costs “unfair and volatile”.
RenewableUK’s CEO Dan McGrail said: “National Grid needs the freedom to invest more in accelerating the transformation of our energy system, to make the most of the huge amounts of renewable electricity we’re generating.
“There’s a pressing case for Ofgem reforming grid charges for renewable generators, as the current system actively deters investment in some of the UK’s largest and most productive projects at a time when we desperately need new power sources.”
Other measures suggested by RenewableUK include the government bringing forward a 5GW renewable hydrogen target by 2030, which it said could replace 5% of total UK gas demand.
“These extraordinary measures can boost the UK’s energy security faster than any alternative and our plans for a rapid shift away from gas power is the best option for consumers,” McGrail said.