Britain's faltering aspirations to become the "Saudi Arabia of wind energy" - as then Prime Minister Boris Johnson put it in 2020 - are at a crossroads. Developers had been warning for months that the UK's offshore wind auction, held last Friday the 8th, would have no takers. Now that it has happened, it may spur much-needed action.
Britain could focus on solar and onshore wind, which received 1.9 gigawatts and 1.5 gigawatts, respectively, in Friday's auction, which totaled 3.7 gigawatts. While both are cheaper and, at least at present, draw more interest from developers, the deployment of larger, offshore projects would make the UK's goal of decarbonizing its electricity system by 2035 more feasible. In the 2022 auction, offshore wind accounted for two-thirds of the 10.8 gigawatts of power awarded.
Wind power companies, such as SSE, did not participate in the auction because turbine costs, among others, have skyrocketed, meaning they could not make an adequate return selling electricity, despite a government subsidy worth £44 (E51) per megawatt-hour at 2012 prices.
Politicians are reluctant to disburse more subsidies before it is absolutely necessary, and that has not happened so far. The real prospect of wind power projects should be the kick in the pants UK politicians need to make conditions more attractive.
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions are theirs. The translation, by Carlos Gómez Abajo, is the responsibility of CincoDías.
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