UK ‘has chance to smash record with 10GW AR6’

A new report published today by RenewableUK shows London has an opportunity to secure a record number of new offshore wind farms and capacity in this year’s Contracts for Difference auction.

In a huge boost to the UK’s energy security, the study found the government has the potential to double the country’s offshore wind capacity in this year’s tender alone.

RenewableUK’s latest EnergyPulse Insights Offshore Wind report reveals 14 wind farms are already eligible to bid into this year’s AR6 process, providing nearly 10.3GW of new capacity.

The previous records were set in 2022 when 8.5GW was eligible across seven projects.

Additionally, a further 4.7GW of new offshore wind capacity (out of 8.7GW in the planning system) could become eligible before applications open for AR6 at the end of March. If these projects were to receive consent from the government, 14.9GW of offshore wind capacity would be eligible for this year’s auction. The report notes being eligible does not mean schemes will choose to bid in – but they have the potential to do so.

To put this 14.9GW of potential new capacity into context, the UK currently has 14.7GW of fully operational offshore wind which generates 14% of the country’s entire electricity needs. Just 1GW of offshore wind generates enough electricity to power over a million British homes for a year.

The report also shows a further 5.2GW is already under construction in UK waters, and forecasts nearly 45GW could be fully operational by the end of 2030.

London is due to set out the overall budget and parameters for this summer’s auction next month, so RenewableUK is calling for Ministers to aim high to maximise the amount of capacity the country can secure. Offshore wind is one of the UK’s cheapest sources of new power and is vital in boosting its energy security and independence from expensive imported power, said the trade body.

The report also shows global operational offshore wind capacity has reached over 70GW for the first time (70.2GW), up from 62.3GW at this time last year, a 12.5% increase in 12 months. The top countries in terms of installed capacity are China (34.7GW), the UK (14.7GW), and Germany (8.3GW.

The research includes a summary of global offshore wind activity in 2023, in which 7.6GW of capacity went fully operational globally, while over 21GW reached a final investment decision. 68% of capacity which went fully operational in 2023 was in two markets – China (4.1GW) and the UK (1.1GW).

The global total pipeline of projects in all stages of development (operational, under construction, consented, in the planning system or in early development) now stands at 1078GW across 1461 projects in 41 countries; China is top with 195.5GW, the UK second at 99.5GW and Sweden third with 85GW:

The report forecasts total global capacity could reach over 340GW by the end of 2030 – almost a fivefold increase from today, with 46% of this capacity in Chinese waters.

“Our latest EnergyPulse report highlights the enormous opportunity which the Government has to strengthen the UK’s energy security, with a record number of new offshore wind farms eligible to bid into this year’s clean power auction, and a record amount of new capacity,” said RenewableUK’s chief executive Dan McGrail.

“As offshore wind farms are one of our cheapest sources of new power for billpayers, we are urging Ministers to be ambitious when they set out the auction budget and parameters next month. If this is done in the right way, we can secure billions in private investment, driving the growth of the UK’s offshore wind supply chain and new jobs in the sector.

“The report also shows that offshore wind is ramping up worldwide at an astonishing pace – and that despite fierce global competition, the UK continues to be a world leader in this vital technology. In this year’s auction, we have the potential to prove again that Britain is one of the best places to invest in new offshore wind projects”.

The 14 UK offshore wind projects which are currently eligible to bid into AR6 are: Norfolk Vanguard West and Norfolk Vanguard East (2.7GW), Hornsea 4 (2.6GW), Awel y Môr (1.1GW), East Anglia 2 (900MW), East Anglia 1 North (800MW), Hornsea 3 (753.1MW), Seagreen 1A (500MW), East Anglia 3 (318MW), Inch Cape (270MW), Pentland (100MW), Erebus (100MW), Blyth 2 (floating project) (58MW), Forthwind (8MW).

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