The strong winds of change

clock • 6 min read

Consistent investment has and will continue to propel the wind power industry to astonishing new heights in post-pandemic, argues RenewableUK

While many other industries around the world face delays, financial challenges and restricted growth, renewable energy remains a strong and fast-developing sector driven by opportunity and innovation. Consistent investment has and will continue to propel the industry to astonishing new heights, making it a key contributor to the UK economy's pandemic recovery.

Aiming high

As a trade member organisation, RenewableUK is passionate about supporting industry advancement. The government has set an ambitious goal of installing 40GW of offshore wind energy by 2030 and we remain confident that we can achieve this or even exceed it, given the exceptional technological prowess of the sector and its predicted development for the future. Achieving this capacity will mean we can generate more than one-third of the UK's electricity from offshore wind, and we have further plans to reach 90GW by 2050, more than doubling this capacity again. These are crucial steps in our journey to reach net zero and combat the existential threat of climate change.

The widespread upscaling of offshore wind is both the challenge and the solution, according to Luke Clark, RenewableUK's director of strategic communications. "The ability to grow the sector at the unprecedented pace we aspire to, all the while maintaining the highest ethical standards and environmentally-friendly processes, requires out-of-the-box thinking and pioneering processes," he said. "It will be no mean feat to quadruple offshore wind capacity in the next 10 years, but it is certainly possible."

Progress so far

Solid foundations have been laid to transform the sector into the unstoppable vehicle it could be in helping us to take decisive action against climate change at scale. This is demonstrated by the 30 per cent increase in offshore wind energy projects which are operational, under construction or in planning worldwide in the last 12 months alone. The UK remains dominant in the market, accounting for a quarter of the global total, with China in second place, the US third and Germany fourth.

Source: RenewableUK Project Intelligence, data correct as of 1 July 2020

In terms of how the UK is measuring up to its net zero emissions target, renewables hit record highs in the last two years. In 2019, renewable energy sources provided 37 per cent of the UK's electricity, with offshore wind alone generating 10 per cent. Impressively, the Global Offshore Wind Report 2020 by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) found that 2019 was the second best growth year ever seen in the sector, with 6.1GW of new installations worldwide. In the UK, we currently have 39 operational offshore wind farms with a total capacity of 10.4GW and, when combined with onshore wind projects, the total of 24GW powers more than 18 million homes across the UK, reducing CO2 emissions by over 29 million tonnes each year.

Even the pandemic hasn't slowed the industry down. Since lockdown in March 2020, analysis by RenewableUK shows that UK-based companies within the wind industry have announced investments and new projects worth over £4bn, creating more than 2,000 jobs. Furthermore, wind energy alone produced 26 per cent of the UK's electricity in the first half of 2020, with 14 per cent coming from offshore wind - the fastest growing technology reported. The stark contrast of this compared to economic trends in other sectors of the UK is truly astounding and representative of the enormous opportunity in the field.

Yet to come

As such, the market shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the International Energy Agency projects it to grow by 13 per cent in the coming two decades, and it is expected to rise 15-fold by 2040 As part of this, in the next five years, we are anticipating installation of: more than 10,000km of array cables; more than 7,700km of new export cables; and 7,000 new wind turbines.

In total, an estimated 156 new global offshore wind projects are expected to begin generating power by 2025. The continued progression of the sector could lead to the creation of 900,000 jobs in the next 10 years. It's little wonder then that the offshore wind industry is tipped to provide major support as the world's economy attempts to recover from Covid-19.

Source: RenewableUK Project Intelligence, data correct as of 1 July 2020

RenewableUK modelling suggests that installing 40GW of offshore in UK waters by the end of this decade will attract £54bn in private investment. To kickstart this, the trade association is advocating that the government lifts capacity caps in the year's Contracts for Difference (CfD) auctions for new low-cost renewable power to secure over £20bn of investment and create 12,000 jobs.

There are also several opportunities in ground-breaking technologies like floating wind, which is integral to the UK meeting its net zero target by 2050 and could generate 17,000 jobs by that time. The UK is uniquely positioned to export floating wind worldwide to emerging markets with deep-water coastlines, including China, Japan, Norway, the US and many more. In addition, a massive up-scaling is expected  in battery storage to enhance the flexibility of the entire energy system and increase capacity. 

Be a part of the revolution

This is clearly an exciting time to be involved with renewable energy, especially offshore wind. Bringing the very latest ideas, innovations and industry-leading individuals to the fore, RenewableUK's Global Offshore Wind 2020 conference and exhibition is an event you don't want to miss. We've gone online this year to ensure that you don't miss out, despite the social restrictions we are facing across the country.

The extensive conference programme has been devised specifically to address the key topics being considered right now, with a particular focus on the race to net zero and the part we can all play in achieving it. Green economic recovery is a key priority among speakers, as is the on-going investment in the sector in long-term sustainability and expansion. We know what we need to achieve, so this is our chance to discuss how we are going to reach our goals.

Event highlights include:

  • 80+ exhibitors
  • 300 speakers
  • 4000+ participants
  • 3 live days with six expert conference streams
  • 30+ hours of exclusive content
  • 22 live and interactive sessions
  • 3 specialist theatres - Innovation, Global Markets, Supply Chain

Demonstrating our passion for the bright future of the industry, RenewableUK will also be presenting the new Futures Forum (Offshore Wind Careers Fair), designed specifically for students aged 16-23 or those interested in changing careers. This will provide an introduction to the sector, as well as CV advice and guidance on building a successful career in offshore wind, inspiring the next generation.

These are certainly exciting times for the industry. To immerse yourself in the world of offshore wind, don't miss RenewableUK's Global Offshore Wind 2020 virtual conference and exhibition.


RewewableUK is the trade body for Britain's wind, wave and tidal stream industries. The Global Offshore Wind 2020 virtual conference and exchibition is set to take place from 28-30 October.

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