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UK offshore wind is dead in the water – as predicted

Press Release

London, 20 July – As one of the world’s biggest windpower developers halts its top UK wind project and warns about further cancellations, Net Zero Watch reminds ministers that they have been warned for years about this inevitable fiasco.

Vattenfall, an international mega-developer of windpower, has put the UK’s giant 1.4 GW offshore wind project Boreas on ice, claiming that rising costs have made the Contract for Difference, awarded last year for £45/MWh (2023 prices), uneconomic (“Key UK offshore wind project axed in blow to climate plans“).

Net Zero Watch, amongst others (see publications listed below), has long warned that the low CfD bids made in the UK had no basis in economic reality. The capital and operating costs of wind power, particularly offshore are still very high. This technology is unattractive and imposes very high system costs when compared to gas generation even at today’s elevated prices. It is completely uneconomic if the gas prices continue to revert to their historic levels.

Net Zero Watch notes that Vattenfall has said it will be considering the future of all is wind projects in the Norfolk zone, with a total of 4.2 GW, placing pressure on the UK government to make extra support available to ensure construction and meet the targets for offshore wind.

Professor Gordon Hughes (University of Edinburgh), the author of many of the studies exposing the reality of wind power costs, said:

It is obvious and now increasingly widely recognised that wind industry claims about costs and performance should not be taken seriously. Very high costs have been clear in the financial data for a long time, and are not the result of recent inflation and supply chain difficulties, though these may be making a bad situation still worse.”

Dr John Constable, NZW’s Energy Director, added:

It is critically important that the UK government does not succumb to the tacit blackmail of Vattenfall’s announcement. The wind experiment has failed. The consumer cannot be expected to continue propping up this unfolding disaster.”

Notes for Editors: Articles and studies on unrealistic offshore wind bids for Contracts for Difference

1. Gordon Hughes, Capell Aris, John Constable, Offshore Wind Strike Prices: Behind the Headlines (GWPF: London, 2017)

2. Gordon Hughes, Who’s the Patsy? Offshore wind’s high-stakes poker game (GWPF: London, 2019)

3. John Aldersey-Williams, Ian D. Broadbent, Peter A. Strachan, “Better estimates of LCOE from audited accounts– A new methodology with examples from United Kingdom offshore wind and CCGT”, Energy Policy, 128 (2019), pp 25-35.

4. Gordon Hughes, Wind Power Economics: Rhetoric and Reality: Volume I: Wind Power Costs in the United Kingdom (Renewable Energy Foundation: 2020).

5. Gordon Hughes, Wind Power Economics: Rhetoric and Reality: Volume II: Wind Power in Denmark (Renewable Energy Foundation: 2020).

6. Andrew Montford, Offshore wind: Cost predictions and cost outcomes (GWPF: London, 2021)

7. Kathryn Porter: Addressing the high real cost of renewable generation (Watt Logic 2022)