POST (Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology)
Developments in Wind Power
UK power generation from wind has increased in recent years due to sharp reductions in the costs of constructing and operating wind power facilities. Onshore wind power provides the cheapest electricity of any form of new generation built, and offshore is expected to continue to reduce in cost. Generating wind power does not emit greenhouse gases, hence future growth will help the UK meet its GHG emissions reduction targets. This POSTnote examines the innovations that have enabled wind power cost reductions, associated policy considerations and challenges for future deployment.
Key points in the POSTnote include:
- Wind power has grown rapidly in the past 10 years. In 2018, onshore and offshore turbines generated 17% of UK electricity. Wind is a key part of UK greenhouse gas emissions reduction plans.
- Increasing turbine size, cheaper finance, and more efficient construction and operations have reduced costs substantially.
- The UK Government supports offshore wind with competitive subsidies, which have enabled cost reductions to date. Further support has been pledged in the 2019 Offshore Wind Sector Deal, and the sector is projected to continue growing.
- New onshore projects do not receive the same government support and are subject to more complex planning requirements. Onshore wind is not expected to grow by much without changes in these policy areas.
- Although wind power is a key component of UK climate change mitigation ambitions, poorly sited farms can have negative impacts on some species of birds and bats.
In 2018, onshore and offshore wind farms combined generated 17% of UK electricity. The UK has installed the largest offshore wind capacity in the world, in part aided by government subsidies which have helped to reduce costs. The UK Government has pledged further support as part of a joint government-industry programme, the Offshore Wind Sector Deal, announced in March 2019.
Cost reductions between 2015 and 2017 allowed developers to sell power from most new projects in 2017 at a price that was 50% lower than 2015 projects. The factors enabling this trend include improved turbine designs, new construction techniques, more efficient operations and increased power production. In particular, increases in turbine size and design standardisation have helped developers install new farms at lower cost.
New offshore wind projects are eligible to bid for a “Contract for Difference”, which provides generators with a guaranteed price for electricity sold (usually amounting to a subsidy). These and previous subsidy schemes have helped the sector become more efficient and competitive. However, no CfD funding or any other subsidy is available for new onshore wind projects. This, along with what many commentators perceive to be a restrictive planning regime, have led to the likely stalling of new onshore wind installations in the near future.
POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including
- Ben Springhall, BEIS*
- Rob Saunders, Innovate UK*
- David Hytch, Innovate UK*
- Gavin Smart, ORE Catapult
- David Wallace, ORE Catapult
- Colin Maciver, Crown Estate Scotland
- Baroness Brown of Cambridge, House of Lords
- Barnaby Wharton, RenewableUK
- Benj Sykes, Ørsted
- Richard Crossick, Ørsted*
- Rhodri James, Equinor
- Torkel Sjoner, Equinor
- Nicholas Harvey, National Grid
- Michael McLaughlin, National Grid
- Jan Matthiesen, Carbon Trust
- Dr Bruce Hall, ONYX InSight
- Dr Evgenia Golysheva, ONYX InSight
- Dr Robert Gross, Imperial College London*
- Dr Matthew Hannon, University of Strathclyde*
- Prof Simon Hogg, Durham University
- Philippa Roddis, University of Leeds*
- Dr David Reiner, University of Cambridge
- Dr Karoline Rogge, University of Sussex
- Dr Aly McCluskie, RSPB
- Dr James Pearce-Higgins, BTO*
- Dr Dan Van der Horst, University of Edinburgh
- Prof Jun Liang, Cardiff University
- Members of the POST Board*
* Denotes contributors who acted as external reviewers of the briefing
|Academic Fellowships||Upcoming work||POST Publications|
Latest News from
POST (Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology)
Access to Critical Materials16/09/2019 16:15:00
Critical materials (CMs) are key to UK manufacturing, including for the aerospace, automotive, energy and chemical sectors, which rely on materials typically extracted and processed abroad.
Online Safety Education30/07/2019 14:05:00
Online technologies are an integral part of many children’s lives.
Improving Witness Testimony19/07/2019 16:47:00
Witness testimony is a written or oral statement given by an individual who has experienced an incident.
Plastic Food Packaging Waste03/07/2019 16:05:00
This POST note outlines the main options for reducing packaging waste (removing, reusing, replacing and recycling plastics) and examines the potential to combine them into a coordinated waste strategy.
Compostable Food Packaging03/07/2019 14:15:00
This brief describes policy options to enable greater use of compostable packaging.
Climate Change and Fisheries27/06/2019 16:15:00
Fishing is dependent on marine food webs that are sensitive to overexploitation and climate change.
Climate Change and UK Wildfire27/06/2019 13:51:00
Wildfire is any uncontrolled vegetation fire that requires a decision, or action, to suppress it.
Government responds to Lords Committee report on the Bribery Act 201028/05/2019 14:25:00
The Select Committee on the Bribery Act 2010 receives the Government response to the report: The Bribery Act 2010: post-legislative scrutiny, published on 14 March 2019.