The government has announced a further £557m of support for green energy projects ahead of the imminent launch of its flagship Clean Growth Strategy, which is expected later this week.
Building on the sharp cost reductions in offshore wind seen in the last month’s clean energy auctions, the government said today the next Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction will be awarded in Spring 2019.
The auction will be for “less established renewable technologies” – a cataegory that includes offshore wind, wave, tidal and biomass, but in reality is likely to be dominated by offshore wind and biomass projects.
Since 2015 the projected cost of offshore wind power has fallen by more than half, with September’s auction results setting a new record low strike price of £57.50 per MWh.
But the government endured criticism for repeatedly delaying the date of the auction, which developers warned risked increasing market uncertainty and creating an investment hiatus.
Since the auction results, Ministers have faced calls from the sector to set out the timings and size of future auctions in order to ensure a steady pipeline of new projects through the 2020s.
Green energy trade body RenewableUK welcomed the announcement, but pressed for more specific help for less established marine technologies such as tidal and wave energy.
“The government’s investment and long-term strategy for offshore wind is delivering great economic benefits all around the country,” chief executive Hugh McNeal said. “Now we need the government to show the same level of commitment to our cutting-edge wave and tidal energy industries. Innovative floating offshore wind technology also offers new opportunities. Ministers should send a clear signal that they understand the many ways our island nation can tap the enormous and diverse energy resources in our seas, and export these industries globally”.
The news comes ahead of the Clean Growth Strategy, a long-awaited plan to get the UK back on track to meet its climate targets. The plan is expected to contain sweeping measures to kickstart emission cuts across housing, business, and transport sectors.
“The government’s Clean Growth Strategy will set out how the whole of the UK can benefit from the global move to a low carbon economy,” Energy Minister Richard Harrington said in a statement. “We’ve shown beyond doubt that renewable energy projects are an effective way to cut our emissions, while creating thousands of good jobs and attracting billions of pounds worth of investment.”
BusinessGreen understands the plan will focus heavily on supporting innovative new clean technologies, promising a new multi-million pound support package for emerging technologies and highlighting how the government is already investing multi-billion sums in clean tech innovation through to 2020.
The strategy is also said to deliver “significant moves” on CCS and will include a new call for evidence on the wide range of policy ideas that are circulating on how to improve the UK’s energy efficiency – a move that will effectively kick off a renewed policy push to deliver energy savings across the domestic and industrial sectors.
The strategy will feature a foreword from the Prime Minister and will focus heavily on the huge economic opportunities that will come with decarbonisation, highlighting how the UK has delivered steep emissions reductions in recent decades while continuing to grow the economy.
A government source said there was “lots of cross-government buy-in behind it”, with strong support for the plan provided by Defra and the Department for Transport.
Separately, the Financial Times reported this morning that the strategy will feature 50 new measures, including support for low carbon heat and transport. It is also expected to leave the door open for onshore wind farm development and new nuclear projects, as long as they can deliver cost reductions.
However, the paper counselled that the strategy is likely to avoid announcing specific new policy measures in some areas, instead focusing on the strategic direction of the government’s decarbonisation plans.