The UK wants to become “Saudi Arabia of the wind”

Make UK “Saudi Arabia of wind power”. With his usual flowery language, Boris Johnson drew up on Tuesday November 17 an ambitious vision for the energy future of the United Kingdom: the British Prime Minister wants to make his country a key player in this technology, betting in particular on offshore wind , whose capacity it intends to quadruple by 2030, to reach 40 gigawatts. “In ten years, we will produce enough electricity from offshore wind to supply the consumption of all households in the country [soit environ le tiers de la consommation d’électricité totale, le reste allant à l’industrie et aux commerces] “, assures Mr Johnson.

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Unlike many other promises made by the British leader, this one does not seem far-fetched. “The wind industry thinks it’s achievable”, says Simon Evans of Carbon Brief, an independent UK energy data analysis site.

The success of the past ten years proves it: the installed capacity has increased eightfold to 10.5 gigawatts. This makes the UK the world leader in offshore wind. In 2019, 10% of British electricity came from this source, bringing the share of renewable to 37% (the rest is made up of onshore wind, solar and biofuels).

A now competitive sector

The geography of the UK is of course an obvious advantage. The country has some 12,000 kilometers of coastline and – as the technocrats say – it has immense “Reservations” Wind. Clearly, it blows hard. Shallow seabeds are also essential, since they allow the pylons of wind turbines to be fixed without too much difficulty. The policy of active support by successive UK governments since 2002 has done the rest.

Today, wind turbines benefit from a guaranteed electricity price in advance, which allows investors to take virtually no risk. A clever reverse auction system has also made it possible to gradually lower the price of construction. Each time the government sells a contract guaranteeing the price of electricity, it sets a ceiling, which it will not exceed, and it invites companies to offer the lowest possible price. “This has helped to stimulate competition, forcing companies to lower their cost base”, explains Evans.

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