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Wind Farms Grapple With Government Red Tape In The UK

Octopus Energy (Octopus) has called on the government to cut red tape and speed up the building process for ramping up wind power in the UK.

Zoisa North-Bond, chief executive of Octopus Energy Generation told City A.M. that “planning laws and getting renewables connected to the grid remain the biggest blockers” of wind farms across the UK.

She noted that it currently takes seven years on average to build a wind farm – and suggested the process could be reduced to just one year if the government acted, now ahead of the coming winter.

The energy chief explained: “We need to apply a can-do mindset to speed up the process of building more renewables, just like how the Covid vaccine was developed in record time. If we act fast, we can become more energy independent and reduce energy bills by bringing more home-grown cheaper, greener energy to local communities.”

This outlook was shared by Octopus chief executive Greg Jackson Octopus – who has also called for more urgency in dealing with the current crisis.

Speaking to City A.M. he said: “Every single wind turbine we build will reduce our demand for gas. We need to – as quick as we can – move to a system where gas is the filler for renewables rather than the base-load.”

However, he did warn that this would could be “a couple of years out”, and suggested we “need to be honest with people that we don’t know what the picture is” with the country still dependent on natural gas.

Analysts are already glooming forecasting that the price cap could spike to £3,000 per year for average energy users – amid soaring wholesale gas prices.

Natural gas prices soared to an eye-watering £8 per therm earlier this month, and remain elevated at £2.68.

For context, the cost for suppliers was just 44p per therm this time last year.

The spiraling energy costs, combined with the price cap, have contributed to dozens of energy firms collapsing over the past six months – directly affecting four million customers.

RenewableUK’s chief executive Dan McGrail told City A.M. planning reforms were key to reducing reliance on fossil fuels, and that nature conversation bodies needed to be supported.

He said: “To make the most of our superb renewable energy resources, we’ll need to see the planning system reformed to make sure new onshore wind projects can go ahead swiftly in areas where they have local community support.  The offshore wind consenting process needs to be speeded up too, by providing more resources for the nature conservation bodies which scrutinize new projects. More investment in grid upgrades would enable the UK to make the most of the renewable power we’re generating and connect up new projects faster.”

UK Natural Gas Futures: Prices have spiked since the start of the year (Source: ICE)

Wind power is currently the second-biggest source of energy for domestic users after natural gas – while electricity generation increased 715 percent between 2009 and 2020.

The government has also committed to quadrupling offshore wind capacity to 40GW by the end of the decade, which it suggests could deliver up to £6bn in consumer savings, as outlined in its point energy plan released ahead of the COP 26 climate summit in October last year.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to outline the UK’s energy security strategy following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine later this month.

Writing in The Telegraph last weekend, he argued renewable power is “at the heart” of the UK’s strategy to secure its energy security and cut down energy prices over the long-term, by phasing down Russian gas.

He said: “Green electricity isn’t just better for the environment, it’s better for your bank balance. A kilowatt from a North Sea wind turbine costs less than one produced by a power station running on gas shipped to the UK from overseas. And if a quarter of our power wasn’t already coming from renewables, your bills today would be even higher than they already are.”

By CityAM

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  • DoRight Deikins on March 18 2022 said:
    Hmm, I'm not so sure. « A kilowatt from a North Sea wind turbine costs less than one produced by a power station running on gas shipped to the UK from overseas. And if a quarter of our power wasn’t already coming from renewables, your bills today would be even higher than they already are.” »

    If you are just looking at the operating costs, perhaps. But a major cost for many years after construction is the capital cost in building out the system, whether a central power plant or a distributed wind generation system. I have seen numbers thrown around that a wind turbine system is equivalent to the building of a hydro-electric dam and generation plant (which is close to a magnitude higher than a gas-turbine plant). I'm not sure if this includes the much costlier distribution system a wind turbine system incurs due to the low utilization rate. E.g. as I write this at 2:30pm UTC 2022Mar18, the utilization rate of the installed capacity in the UK is 32% of installed capacity. From what I have seen it is almost never over 50% and normally runs 20-25%. Even at 33%, this means that the capacity needs to be 3 times nameplate production and the system needs to be able to graciously handle wide ranges in that generation. That is the distribution system needs to be built to handle 3-4 times the normal production. That's a lot of copper. Plus the system needs to be robust to handle the surges and valleys of production.

    So my guess is that the price of electricity in the UK currently is not just high because of the price of NG, but the capital costs incurred in building out the current renewable infrastructure.

    And then there is maintenance. Not only are windmills fraught with potential disabling problems, from large birds to excessive wind bursts, but the expense of repair personnel is high and will be soon thru the roof, once it is discovered that turbine maintenance personnel are in a more dangerous profession than coal mining. I have a cousin who fell from a mast 84 ft above the deck of his CG vessel while repairing an antenna. He actually survived, because of all the things he hit on his way down (though he still goes into VA regularly for 'warranty' work). But trying to repair or secure a wind turbine 100 m above the surface as it twists and bends during a gale, I don't think you could pay me enough! My friend can't even find someone to climb his very well secured 50 m antenna (cable company) during calm weather to change the light at the top.

    Thus I would say that not only are capital costs skyrocketing, but operating costs will soon skyrocket also.

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