After attending the Global Offshore Wind 2022 event in Manchester 21-22 June, PSC’s Michael Hook shares his perspective on the changes necessary to meet aggressive targets, especially in the UK.
What’s it all about
The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) has just launched the Global Wind Report 2022 looking at the next era of growth for the wind industry. The report finds that 2021 was the second-best year on record for the global wind industry, with 93.6 GW of new installed capacity but to meet net-zero ambitions, installations still need to quadruple by the end of the decade.
The intention of the conference was to bring together the project developers, regulators, government officials, and transmission system operators with the wider supply chain to focus on what needs to be done in the near term to turn ambition into action.
What went on
The conference brought together all of the major UK and international developers of offshore wind projects with representatives throughout the supply chain and academia. With multiple conference streams of presentations, round table discussions, and Q&A sessions running in parallel with networking events, the conference provided intensive opportunities for engagement with existing and potential clients.
The challenges of scaling up existing installations and supply chains to meet the very ambitious future targets, both in the UK and worldwide were debated. Whilst these challenges are very real, the overall theme of the conference was more around the opportunities that the recent developments in increased Wind Turbine Generator sizes and floating wind have created.
Focus on the UK
In order for people all around Britain to benefit from domestic, affordable, renewable energy, there is now a target of an almost fourfold increase in offshore wind capacity by 2030. The supply chain needs to be strengthened, markets need to be reformed to become more resilient and sustainable, rising global commodity prices need to be managed, and floating offshore wind needs to be scaled up. And it’s not lost on anyone that all of these challenges come at a time when nations all over the world are upping their offshore wind game.
There is something of a divergence between the view of the success of the recent regulatory changes that have resulted in a significant lowering in the costs the consumer pays for offshore wind. Government officials and regulators generally see this as a big success and the driver behind the increase in offshore wind targets in the UK and internationally. The supply chain generally attributes this to making the industry less profitable and stifling investment in R&D.
The discussion on the development of the offshore grid and Ofgem’s Offshore Transmission Network Review has been continuing for some time now. There were strong, and often opposing opinions on who should be responsible for developing the offshore grid throughout the conference. In a poll of conference attendees, the two most popular responses were “Developers” and “Not Developers” which gives an indication of the challenge the UK regulator is facing in setting up this regime.
A common theme amongst all exhibitors, attendees and presenters was the difficulty in addressing the skills shortage, particularly within the Engineering discipline. It is often said that the UK currently employs approximately 10,000 people in the offshore wind sector which needs to increase to 100,000 by 2030. However, this does not account for the additional support work. For example within our own organization, there are many staff undertaking studies and technical advisor services on offshore wind projects who would not describe themselves as being employed in the “offshore wind” sector. Engineering skills are likely to be even more highly prized in the next few years.
Having attended a number of offshore wind conferences throughout the last decade, there appears to now be a general consensus that the previous barriers of cost, scalability and technical advances have been largely overcome and the focus is no longer on whether it is possible to meet offshore wind installation targets but simply about getting on and doing it. There will of course be many challenges, particularly in supply chains, in meeting such ambitious targets but I am certainly expecting to see a step-change in the scale of offshore wind projects being developed within the next ten years.