Good news! Boris Johnson is promising to power every home in the UK with offshore wind energy within a decade. Despite once falsely saying wind farms ‘couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding’, Johnson’s new vision is for the UK to become the ‘Saudi Arabia of wind power’.
Johnson made the announcement in his keynote speech at the Conservative party conference. The announcement follows a major 2019 Conservative manifesto promise to deliver loads of offshore wind power by 2030.
This is a victory, and one worth celebrating.
Despite blocking new wind turbines on land until very recently, successive governments – pushed along by Greenpeace UK and many others – have enabled the offshore wind industry to create the technology, know-how and jobs needed to make Britain today a true wind powerhouse.
As a result, Britain is now home to the biggest offshore wind turbines in the world, taking advantage of the huge wind resources we have around our coastline.
These new offshore wind turbines can power a UK home for MORE THAN TWO DAYS with a single rotation. Even more exciting – they're coming to an offshore wind farm near you very soon! pic.twitter.com/yqbOsrNBOg
— Sarah Merrick (@SpeakSarahSpeak) September 22, 2020
Why is the wind announcement such an important milestone?
Offshore wind must become the backbone of our new energy system, so we can quit fossil fuels and help the economy across different parts of the country. The push for wind will provide skilled jobs, as well as deliver on climate goals.
The prime minister still has to deliver on his promise through 2021 and beyond, but this is a crucial step towards switching our economy from fossil fuels to renewables. It’s good to see him showing leadership on this issue.
Over the last 20 years offshore wind power has completely transformed from being criticised as expensive, niche and controversial to cost effective, mainstream and successful.
Impressively, it is now the cheapest large-scale form of electricity generation in the UK. More offshore wind can lower energy bills, because on average it can generate power below the average price for other sources of electricity.
A promising development, but the detail must follow
During his election victory speech, Boris Johnson promised to make the UK the ‘cleanest, greenest country on Earth’. He must use his leadership to make the changes necessary before the next election to actually make this happen.
As with any major industrial project, there are still some knotty issues that could interfere with delivering this massive offshore wind expansion.
The critical challenge now is for the government to explain how they are going to deliver on their headline goal, and then to clear away all of the red tape and hurdles and make it happen.
In particular, that means confirming that all upcoming auctions for new wind power contracts will enable lots more offshore wind to be built – at least 20GW over the next four years – to sustain the industry’s growth and meet the government’s target by 2030.