Orders for offshore wind turbines have come to an abrupt halt in the UK, in what some industry figures say is the first clear sign of a long-feared slowdown in renewable energy investment.
The three leading manufacturers of the turbines due to be made for the vast banks of wind farms planned for British seas have taken just one offshore order between them this year, the FT has learned.
This comes amid an “unnecessary investment freeze” triggered by the government’s troubled efforts to change the way it subsidises low-carbon energy, according to Keith MacLean of the SSE power company, which is developing UK offshore farms.
Paul Coffey of RWE Innogy, another offshore developer, said his company was not currently in the market to buy turbines, but if it were, delays in the government’s plans and the “ridiculous” remarks of anti-wind farm energy minister John Hayes last week “would certainly make us think twice”.
The energy secretary, Ed Davey, was forced to contradict Mr Hayes who suggested the government no longer backed the “extraordinary” number of onshore wind farms “peppered” around the country.
Offshore farms are far less politically contentious than onshore plants but any sign of government opposition to wind power spooks developers. They are also crucial to meeting European Union targets to get 20 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Germany’s Siemens, which built 60 per cent of the 800-odd turbines installed in UK seas so far, says it took one UK offshore order in July. Neither Denmark’s Vestas, which made 35 per cent of UK offshore turbines, nor Repower Systems, a German subsidiary of India’s Suzlon say they have had an order since October 2011.
The July turbine order received by Siemens – from Denmark’s Dong utility – was for 300 turbines, fewer than what will be needed for projects that are due to double UK offshore capacity over the next four years.
The order slowdown could also be a result of planning approval delays, said a spokesman for RenewableUK, the main wind trade association.
But uncertainties in green energy policy in the UK, which has more offshore wind power capacity than the rest of the world combined, are one reason leading turbine makers and wind farm developers will be meeting European Commission officials later this week, said a spokesman for the European Wind Energy Association.