The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has called for a renewed commitment by the UK Government to renewable energy.
Although RSPB strongly resists renewable energy proposals where they have unacceptable wildlife impacts – such as its successful appeal last month in the Court of Session against four large wind farms off eastern Scotland – it supports large-scale expansion of carefully-planned renewable energy across the UK, and does not object to over 90% of sites.
In its latest report, ‘The RSPB’s 2050 Energy Vision’, a mapping analysis showed how the UK can deliver its climate targets using ambitious levels of renewable energy, without major risks to sensitive species and habitats. It concluded that renewable energy should be prioritised in the UK’s energy strategy, with continued growth of onshore wind, solar and offshore renewables in addition to reducing energy demand.
The report also highlighted major opportunities to develop renewable energy in deeper waters around the UK, using innovative technologies like floating turbines to harness strong winds further offshore.
This could enable substantial growth in areas where development is likely to have lower risks for marine wildlife, in particular due to lower densities of protected seabirds, which have presented major challenges for some offshore wind projects. The RSPB has called on the UK Government to invest in understanding the impacts of floating wind technology and overcoming any barriers to sustainable deployment, with a view to encouraging commercial-scale sites by the mid-2020s.
Today a Government consultation closes on whether support for renewable energy projects should continue beyond 2020.
The consultation asks whether subsidy regulations for renewable energy should be changed to allow the Government to support projects due to start between 2020 and 2026. Although the UK Government has recently cut support for onshore wind and solar, it has indicated it will provide further support for offshore wind and potentially other ‘less established’ technologies.
This would enable the Government to meet its commitment in the 2016 Budget to auction up to £730 million of support under the Contracts for Difference framework for offshore wind and other less established renewable generation technologies for projects commissioning from 2021-2026.
The RSPB welcomes the proposal to formally extend the Government’s powers to fund renewable energy into the 2020s, highlighting the need to boost investor confidence in the UK as a good place to do business for renewable energy.
This opportunity has been highlighted in a number of other studies, including by the Energy Technologies Institute which found that encouraging floating wind is a “key strategic issue for the UK”.
RSPB senior policy officer, Melanie Coath said: “The RSPB is clear that continued Government support for carefully-planned renewable energy into the 2020s is critical to the UK’s long-term energy strategy.
“There is also an exciting opportunity to be at the forefront of innovative technologies like floating wind turbines, if we seize the opportunity now, and make sure we invest in understanding the impacts of those technologies so they can be rolled out in harmony with nature.”
Stuart Bradley, Strategy Manager for Offshore Renewables at the Energy Technologies Institute, added: “Offshore wind has the potential to deliver levelised cost of energy (LCoE) that will compete amongst the lowest cost forms of low carbon generation from the mid 2020s”.