If new onshore wind projects were allowed to go ahead in the UK, consumers and business would save money on their electricity bills in the decades ahead, and thousands of jobs would be created.
That’s according to research by independent analysts Vivid Economics following last month’s landmark report on reaching net zero emissions by 2050 by the Committee on Climate Change, which suggested increasing the UK’s onshore wind capacity from 13 gigawatts (GW) now to 35GW by 2035 as part of a low-cost energy strategy for the future.
The study, “Quantifying the economic benefits of onshore wind to the UK”, commissioned by RenewableUK, shows that building this capacity of new onshore wind instead of gas plants would save an average household £50 a year in 2035, reducing the cost of electricity by 7%.
The research also shows that the sector would nearly triple employment, supporting 31,000 jobs by 2035 with 14,000 directly employed in the industry (up from 5,300 direct jobs now), if 35GW is deployed.
These jobs would be created throughout the UK, lifting productivity in areas that need it most, particularly in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In 2017, the UK exported £52m worth of onshore wind goods and services according to Government statistics. The study shows that the UK supply chain could capture £360m of the global onshore wind market by 2035, supporting 3,700 jobs in 2035.
However, the researchers point out that onshore wind faces multiple barriers, including exclusion from Government-backed contracts to generate power, and strict rules governing the construction of onshore turbines which have led to a significant decline in planning applications since 2015. The study notes that these barriers have increased uncertainty in the project pipeline, reducing investment in the UK-based supply chain.
RenewableUK’s Deputy Chief Executive, Emma Pinchbeck, said: “Now that the Government has announced that it will set a legally binding target to reach net zero emissions by 2050, it needs to make use of the cheapest technology to get there – and to do so swiftly, as people are demanding immediate action on climate change. They also want lower electricity bills in the decades ahead, and skilled jobs. Onshore wind is treated as the Cinderella of energy policy by Government but in reality, it should be their Fairy Godmother – one of the few technologies that can grant all of these wishes.
“The Government’s climate advisers are also recommending more onshore wind because it’s part of the cheapest route to net zero emissions by 2050. Now is the perfect time for Ministers to take a fresh look at this key technology and dismantle the barriers which are preventing us all from benefiting from it in full”.