Sow the wind, reap the returns: UK is Number 1 in European wind farm investment

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UK-focused offshore developers lead Europe’s drive towards harnessing wind power, committing £11.2bn (Euros 13bn) in 2020, according to industry body WindEurope.

But the continent’s total £37 billion outlay last year still lags behind new capacity needed to meet revised decarbonising goals implicit in the Paris climate accords, the lobbyists point out.

Offshore projects topped the analysts’ table.  At 1.2GW, Dogger Bank in the North Sea is set to be the world’s biggest farm, with its three phases developed by the Forewinds consortium of SSE Renewables, Equinor and Eni.   Together with Hollandse Kuist Zuid, the venture helped push major maritime projects to a combined £22.5bn outlay in 2020.

New onshore ventures received a further £14.7bn last year across the continent.   In England they effectively ceased in 2016, but proceed in the UK’s devolved jusrisdictions.

Last year’s investments contributed to a total 20GW of new wind capacity, with 13 GW of that located in EU states. But the total falls far short of the 27GW needed every year if the EU is to meet its 55 % carbon reduction target, enshrined in the revised EU Renewables Directive,  and specifically the Commission’s Fit for 55 plan’, signed off by the EU’s Parliament last year.

Red tape in international and cross-border planning procedures are snagging essential acceleration of power harvested from wind, according to WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson.

“The technology is available. So is the money”, he said.   “But the right policies are missing, notably on the permitting of new farms where rules and procedures are too complex”.

“Governments need to simplify their permitting and ensure there are people to process the permit applications. Otherwise there’s no point having a higher renewables target.”

A ‘typical’ major wind project is financed with between 70% and 90% debt, according to WindEurope’s new financing guide. In 2020 banks lent a record £18 bn in of non-recourse debt to European projects.

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