Government advised to cool off over offshore wind turbine sites

The Government should slow down plans to roll out thousands of offshore wind turbines in the UK’s seas by 2020, its climate advisors have indicated.

The Committee on Climate Change said renewables had a significant role to play in cutting carbon from the UK economy, and could provide 30 per cent of electricity, heating and transport energy by 2030 – double the target set for 2020.

But nuclear power would remain the most cost-effective way of providing low-carbon electricity well into the 2020s, the committee said, calling for around 14 new nuclear plants to be built by the end of the next decade.

Such a move would go beyond existing plans to build 12 new reactors on seven sites by 2025.

And the “very aggressive pace” of Government plans for the roll-out of offshore wind turbines – seen as less controversial than onshore turbines and the major focus of renewable development – should be “moderated” because of its expense up to 2020.

Incentives designed to boost offshore wind projects over the next decade will add around £50 to the average household electricity bill by 2020, although householders will see savings on bills as a result of other schemes to improve energy efficiency.

Committee chief executive David Kennedy suggested more support could be given to cheaper alternatives, including heat pumps to homes and developing more onshore wind farms, to help the UK to meet its legally-binding European Union target to provide 15 per cent of all energy needs from renewables by 2020.

Under current offshore wind plans, the Government would expect to see 13 gigawatts of turbines installed in the seas around the UK by 2020, or more than 3,600 turbines.

Mr Kennedy said offshore wind was a very promising technology with a lot of resource potential. However, it would not be competitive with other low carbon technologies in the next decade or so.

The Government should be flexible on its plans for offshore wind this decade, potentially installing several fewer gigawatts of power, but should not look for a “wholesale change” in the level of ambition, he said.