The good news is that the upswing in renewable energy generation is actively assisting the UK’s decarbonisation efforts. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have reported the provisional GHG Emissions for 2018 and the energy supply sector experienced the largest reduction in CO2 emissions from 2017 – 2018. This reduction has largely been driven by a shift to using renewables. Nuclear and renewables accounted for 47% of fuel used for electricity generation in 2018, up from 22% in 1990 (BEIS, 2019). The energy supply sector in the UK has seen a 59% reduction in CO2 emissions since 1990, largely in part due to the continuing investment and development of renewable energy.
Offshore wind in the UK has seen 25,893,323 tonnes of CO2 reduction per annum (RenewableUK, 2019) from 36 operational projects and this is set to increase as more projects become operational. Offshore and onshore wind are the biggest source of renewable energy in the UK, contributing to 13.8% of national electricity generation (6.5% more than coal, oil, and gas). This shift in the electricity generation mix will continue to see CO2 reduction in years to come.
The offshore wind industry is continuing to grow, and turbine sizes have increased significantly in recent years. The larger the turbine, the higher the percentage of material and energy use in the manufacturing process, however, studies have found that larger turbines have shorter CO2 payback times due to their higher capacity factors. 2.3 MW wind turbine requires 11 months to offset the energy used in its production and a 5 MW wind turbine is paid off in 9.6 months (Chipindula et al., 2018). As 20MW turbines are now being put forward in planning applications in the UK this finding is something which must be considered when comparing the benefits of offshore wind versus fossil fuels for electricity generation.
In the UK it is important that we use the benefits of living on an Island nation; whilst we love to complain about the weather it is something that we can harness for good and continue to use to decarbonise our economy.
Royal HaskoningDHV are global leaders in offshore wind feasibility, consenting and post compliance support across the UK and Europe. We look forward to supporting our clients in upcoming Crown Estate Round 4 and Crown Estate Scotland Scotwind processes and seeing how the Spring 2019 Contracts for Difference auction progress as we continue use our market experience to support the development of the offshore wind sector and enhance society together.
ReferencesCenter for Climate and Energy Solutions (2019) Renewable Energy. Available at: https://www.c2es.org/content/renewable-energy/
Committee on Climate Change (2018) Reducing UK Emissions. 2018 Progress Report to Parliament. June 2018. Available at: https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/CCC-2018-Progress-Report-to-Parliament.pdf#page=37
Chipindila, J., Botlaguduru, V.S.V., Du, H., Kommalapati., R.R., and Huque, Z. (2018) Life Cycle Environmental Impact of Onshore and Offshore Wind Farms in Texas. Sustainability, 10, 2022.
RenewableUK (2019) UK Wind Energy Database. Available at: https://www.renewableuk.com/page/UKWEDhome
BEIS (2019) 2018 UK Provisional Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/790086/2018-provisional-emissions-statistics-one-page-summary.pdf