UK power generation from wind has increased in recent years due to sharp reductions in the costs of constructing and operating wind power facilities. Onshore wind power provides the cheapest electricity of any form of new generation built, and offshore is expected to continue to reduce in cost. Generating wind power does not emit greenhouse gases, hence future growth will help the UK meet its GHG emissions reduction targets. This POSTnote examines the innovations that have enabled wind power cost reductions, associated policy considerations and challenges for future deployment.Jump to full report >>
Key points in the POSTnote include:
In 2018, onshore and offshore wind farms combined generated 17% of UK electricity. The UK has installed the largest offshore wind capacity in the world, in part aided by government subsidies which have helped to reduce costs. The UK Government has pledged further support as part of a joint government-industry programme, the Offshore Wind Sector Deal, announced in March 2019.
Cost reductions between 2015 and 2017 allowed developers to sell power from most new projects in 2017 at a price that was 50% lower than 2015 projects. The factors enabling this trend include improved turbine designs, new construction techniques, more efficient operations and increased power production. In particular, increases in turbine size and design standardisation have helped developers install new farms at lower cost.
New offshore wind projects are eligible to bid for a “Contract for Difference”, which provides generators with a guaranteed price for electricity sold (usually amounting to a subsidy). These and previous subsidy schemes have helped the sector become more efficient and competitive. However, no CfD funding or any other subsidy is available for new onshore wind projects. This, along with what many commentators perceive to be a restrictive planning regime, have led to the likely stalling of new onshore wind installations in the near future.
POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including
* Denotes contributors who acted as external reviewers of the briefing
Authors: Charalampos Michalakakis; Jack Miller
The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology produces independent, balanced and accessible briefings on public policy issues related to science and technology.