EU offshore wind has a bright future, EWEA conference track chairs agree

» By | Published 17 Dec 2013 |

The next two years will be critical to further establishing and expanding the European offshore wind sector, especially in Britain and Germany, one of the track chairs at the recent offshore conference in Frankfurt said earlier this week.

Dima Rifai, CEO of Paradigm Change Capital Partners in the UK, added a key area in the continued development of the offshore wind industry will be various ways that cost reduction can be realised across both the cost of technology and the cost of capital.

Rifai also said in an email interview that it will be interesting to see how offshore wind’s supply chain evolves and what effects local content requirements will have on the industry.

The finance track chair at the European Wind Energy Association’s Offshore conference in Germany three weeks ago, Rifai said an important message that came out of the financing sessions was that regulatory uncertainty is one of the main themes preoccupying both the industry and financial investor participants.

“We are still learning the risks in offshore wind and how to adjust for them,” she said. “As a result, there are few standardised ways to do things and each wind farm requires bespoke solutions which is an expensive way and time consuming process.”

But Rifai added that overall there is a will on the finance side to be involved in offshore wind and that many parties are studying the market seriously for an entry point.

Andrew Jamieson, CEO, Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, UK, said there is a continuing call for political certainty across Europe especially regarding targets beyond 2020 that would give the market the confidence to scale up manufacturing.

As the track chair for the industrialising the supply chain sessions, Jamieson added that overall there was a strong sense at the conference that the offshore wind sector will indeed move forwards.

“What I [found] particularly interesting were the viewpoints of senior players starting to regard big projects as offshore power stations,” Jamieson said. “This means a lot to me in everything from how projects are thought about in design, procurement, construction and operation. It’s no longer elitist activity for wind experts but a strong industry for all power professionals.”

He also described the sector as an industry that will be here to stay and provide not just clean energy but jobs and economic value for decades.

Jesper Møller, the Head of Offshore Technologies for Siemens Wind Power, was the future technologies track chair.

Møller said that while the future of European offshore wind is bright, the sector needs to overcome cost challenges, which is tough but not impossible.

“Everybody needs to accept that this is not a high-margin industry but it is a healthy industry with many years of opportunities if we understand the need for simplifications,” he said.

“It is now clear to the industry that all players have to pitch in with cost savings on all areas. There is no chance that the turbine manufacturers can lift this challenge alone. A lot of focus on more cost-efficient foundations and simpler grid connection systems is necessary.”

Norbert Giese, Vice President of Offshore Development for REpower, was the markets, strategies and planning track chair at the recent conference.

Giese also believes that European offshore wind has a positive future.

“The main driver for the offshore wind industry during this decade will be Northwest Europe and the Baltic,” Giese said, predicting there will be additional offshore markets in the next decade.

More information about EWEA’s offshore conference and exhibition can be found here.


British public wants wind energy – but government has different plans

» By | Published 07 Aug 2013 |

Off2An overwhelming majority of the public in the UK approve of the government providing financial support for renewable energy technologies, according to a new survey. The YouGov poll for the Sunday Times found support from across the political spectrum, with Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem and UKIP voters all agreeing that the government should continue investing in low-carbon technologies.

The survey found 65% of respondents in favour of government spending money for wind power, while 76% said the same for tidal energy and 78% backed financial support for solar. In comparison, only 49% approved of public financial support for nuclear, 57% for clean coal and just 40% said the government should provide support for shale gas. 47% of respondents considered shale gas projects as damaging to the environment.

Despite this, Chancellor George Osborne recently revealed tax breaks for the fracking industry, with a 30% tax rate for onshore shale gas production, much lower than oil taxes. Osborne called his new tax regime “the most generous for shale in the world”.

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Cutting renewables support to increase competitiveness is nonsense

» By | Published 24 Jun 2013 |

indexThose European countries which have cut support schemes for renewable energy, have – just like Professor Butler writing on an FT blog yesterday – jumped to the wrong conclusion.

“Competitiveness is the watchword of the moment. Recession and unemployment are the crises which require attention”, the Professor writes. Yes indeed. Yet withdrawing public support for wind energy and other renewables to boost competitiveness, to tackle recession and unemployment is as illogical as eating an orange a day for your health – and stopping as soon as you get a cold.

The renewables sector employs over 1.2 million people in Europe. Wind energy alone contributed €32 billion to the EU economy in 2010 and employs well over 200,000 people in Europe. Europe is a net exporter of wind energy technology. Support for renewables is support for European jobs; a European industry and European growth.

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Wind farms don’t need fossil fuel back-up

» By | Published 05 Jun 2013 |

Wind energy doesn’t usually see much support from UK newspaper the Daily Telegraph, but this weekend the paper published a story based on National Grid (the UK’s electricity grid operator) evidence proving that wind farms do not need fossil fuel back-up for when the weather is calm.

“The National Grid has studied what actually happens in practice, with explosive, if surprising, results,” the paper said. “Between April 2011 and September 2012…wind produced some 23,700 gigawatt hours (GWh) of power. Only 22 GWh of power from fossil fuels was needed to fill the gaps when the wind didn’t blow. That’s less than a thousandth of the turbines’ output – and, as it happens, less than a tenth of what was needed to back up conventional power stations.”

That statement highlights another perhaps little known fact – fossil fuel power stations do need back-up. A fossil fuelled power station needs to shut down for repairs or maintenance taking many gigawatts of power offline with it.

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EWEA CEO: wind energy needs the clout of gas, coal and nuclear

» By | Published 22 May 2013 |
Thomas Becker, EWEA CEO.

Thomas Becker, EWEA CEO.

“Gas, coal and nuclear have more political clout than the wind industry”, and the industry has to take a “more visible place in the political landscape.”

So writes EWEA’s new CEO Thomas Becker in the latest Wind Directions.

“The big boys did not see nice ‘alternative’ wind as a threat. Now they do. As old power plants face closure the competition between technologies to fill the gap is intense.

Becker calls for European and national associations to “speak with one voice.”

“Gone are the days when economic growth made expansion easy for all technologies. The associations of the wind industry need to big up – like turbines have. Like the grid we need to be better interconnected: European and national associations must work together much more closely  to shape  national government and  EU energy policy.”

Read the full article in the latest Wind Directions