by Max Frankel
A new study released by The Crown Estate and the Offshore Wind Cost Reduction Task Force predicts that the cost of offshore wind generation in the UK will drop by one-third by the year 2020.
The Crown Estate licenses offshore wind projects and the Offshore Wind Cost Reduction Task Force is a division of the UK’s Department of energy and Climate Change.
The UK wants the technology to account for as much as one-fifth of total electricity needs — about 18GW by 2020. But because of the high cost of the technology and a lack of transmission infrastructure, the pace of adoption has been modest. The European debt crisis has also stalled development.
The current cost of offshore wind energy in the UK is much higher than the current cost of natural gas. This is one reason the conservative Tory party has shifted focus to gas — to the chagrin of some in the wind industry. Despite this emerging conflict, the government report argues that wind needs to play a crucial role:
“Ours is an island nation, blessed with copious wind and shallow seas. If we are to match our clean energy ambitions, we must take full advantage of this potent natural resource.We believe that the offshore wind industry can and must evolve to be more competitive and forward looking. That in turn will boost the security of our energy supplies, create jobs, and attract further inward investment.”
Europe is already the leader in offshore wind development. According to estimates by the European Wind Energy Association, wind energy could account about 14 percent of Europe’s cumulative electricity demand by 2030. The Association also projects that as many as 170,000 Europeans could be employed in the sector by 2020. The experience of European companies has put the industry on a pathway to continued cost reductions, according to the chief executive of RenewableUK, Maria McCaffery: