Select Committee on Trade and Industry Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA)


  BWEA, established in 1979, now represents 170 companies involved in UK wind energy, including all existing onshore developers (422.2MW of capacity at the time of writing), together with all of the companies holding agreements for lease for offshore windfarms. It represents the wind industry in negotiations with the Crown Estate and DTI on the development of "further offshore".

  Wind energy is widely expected to form at least half of the envisaged target of 10 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2010. It is BWEA's view that this may prove to be a conservative estimate, given the uncertain deployment of biomass and the exclusion of energy-from-waste from renewable obligation certificates.

  The Committee has asked for answers to a number of questions:

Given the imminent dependence of the UK on energy imports, how can the UK maintain a secure energy supply? What mix of fuels would maximise security?

  Indigenous sources clearly offer the greatest security of supply. Wind energy is one of the greatest renewable energy resources available to the UK, with the technical potential to meet total demand eight times over. Approximately 40 per cent of the available wind energy resource in Europe occurs in the UK. Most envisaged onshore and offshore schemes should generate within the range of the price indicated in the renewables obligation. It is difficult to imagine a sustainable UK energy mix without significant volumes of wind energy.

  Wind energy is unlikely ever to represent a threat to system, as a loss of even 1000MW of wind at once is arguably less likely than the regularly occurring temporary unavailability of say, a large conventional plant or an interconnector.

  It is also worth noting that a system with more "embedded" plant could accommodate considerably more than a conservatively estimated 10-20 per cent of "intermittent" generation within the existing grid. This issue is being examined by both the Foresight programme and the Embedded Generation Co-ordinating Group. Already, both German and Danish systems operate satisfactorily with high levels of wind generation.

  The fuel source (wind) is not vulnerable to economic or political activity outside of the UK. Renewables at large, but in particular wind farms, are geographically widely dispersed and are, therefore, physically difficult to disrupt.

  Moreover, renewables, again in particular wind energy, are not vulnerable to variance in fuel costs. Therefore, price is more predictable than fuels at the mercy of global markets.

Is there a conflict between achieving security of supply and environmental policy? What is the role for renewables, and Combined Heat and Power schemes?

  A progressive and planned movement towards a sustainable energy mix is the lowest pain route for the necessary changes in system, market and public attitudes. We recommend an early announcement of the extension of the initial 10 per cent target to enable both generation and supply companies to plan for further development of renewables which would offset the scheduled closedown of thermal plant.

  Although we offer no particular comment on combined heat and power, we are working closely with our colleagues in the Combined Heat and Power Association on matters directly affecting our technologies, notably the inequities of NETA and its operation.

What scope is there for further energy conservation?

  Energy conservation and good practice is key to reducing demand. However, there will always remain a demand for energy (electricity demand grows by ca. 2 per cent annually). Therefore, we believe the best strategy will be to secure increasing volumes of low-environmental impact and high-security sustainable generation.

What impact would any changes have on industrial competitiveness and on efforts to tackle fuel poverty?

  The opportunities afforded by a significant offshore wind industry present a rare opportunity for offshore oil and gas companies to diversify into the supply and support of offshore wind. BWEA has been awarded a contract by the Oil & Gas Directorate of the DTI to forge such links. This suggests that competitiveness can be enhanced, particularly as the UK is self-evidently blessed with extensive wind resources. Other European countries are also developing offshore wind and will require installation and deployment technology, particularly of an innovative (and cheaper) type than currently available, which could be supplied from the UK.

Is any change of Government policy necessary? How could/should Government influence commercial decisions in order to achieve a secure and diverse supply of energy?

  The introduction of the Renewables Obligation appears to have had a positive effect on the incentives for companies to invest in, and develop, wind energy projects. For example, the so-called first round of offshore windfarms proved to be more popular and (at the time of writing) will lead to perhaps three times as much installed wind as was envisaged by both ourselves and the Crown Estate. Offshore development is taking place in a market largely unsupported by Government (other than by the obligation itself).

  Similar, though less tangible, improved rates of development are taking place onshore, particularly in Scotland, with so-called "fully commercial" projects, both large and small, recently constructed.

  However, in our submission to the Government's ongoing Energy Review, we identified four major areas of concern that are, in our view, key to the success of growth in the wind energy sector. The first three of these were identified in the PIU's renewable energy scoping note. All are within the direct influence of Government. These concerns are as follows:


  Considerable progress has been made in Scotland in the successful operation of the planning system to deliver renewable energy targets. Quite the opposite has occurred in Wales. In England the industry awaits the uncertain outcome of the process begun with the regional assessments of renewable energy resources.

  The Energy Minister reported in the Commons on 16 October, "By promoting the development of regional plans for renewable energy, and through the proposed update of National Planning Policy Guidance Note on Renewable Energy (PPG22), the Government are seeking to ensure that local planning decisions on proposed wind energy projects are taken in the context of wider policy objectives".

  We do not yet understand how the resource studies will be converted in regional plans (or as previously described, planning targets), or how central Government will work with regions and locally in promoting the appreciation and implementation of such plans.

  In 2000, the Association published a document "Planning for wind energy: a guide for regional targets" in which we illustrated how the DTI's indicated onshore target might be deployed across the UK.

  It has also been suggested that the planning policy guidance note might usefully be updated. Although it is true that certain parts of the note would benefit from updating (eg the sections dealing with the technology) it is not our view that this is the single most important task facing the industry and we would be concerned if this document (which has been disregarded in previous planning applications) was seen as overly significant.

  This Association is a strong advocate of community-involved projects. Whereas these might not directly involve, say investment, close links between developers and local communities have proved key to the success of recent positive decisions. Initiatives directly involving farmers, for example have proved popular. The Association is increasingly contacted by companies with land (and/or grid) assets looking to develop their sites, either for on-site generation or for leasing to development companies.


  This is a complex issue, but essentially reflects the changing nature of generation; from large-scale distributed generation to smaller-scale, embedded projects. Related to this are questions about the cost of connection and how these should be borne, particularly in the context of large offshore sites. We are currently recommending that the provision of additional grid reinforcement/availability would be of the greatest value in securing renewables development.


  It is our firm view that NETA is, in its operation, unfair to wind energy, adding an unnecessary additional cost to generation. Although trading may be able to minimise the impact, particularly on larger, or quasi-vertically integrated companies, there remains a risk, which adds a cost. It may be a side-effect of the implementation of NETA that smaller (and in particular, very small, so-called "community schemes") are made unviable because of the additional costs, and therefore reduce competition in the market. We are in dialogue with the regulator on this matter.

  To quote from our formal submission to the regulator, ". . . despite the emphasis on reliability and predictability, perhaps . . . thermal plant presently receives favourable treatment under NETA. We noted that reserves are primarily influenced by the need to cover against the loss of the largest unit on the system—normally Sizewell B. The cost of these reserves is not, however, charged to that station and we therefore find it even more incongruous that the risks associated with wind on the system—non-existent at the moment—should be so heavily penalised.

  We therefore [propose] that wind generators be exempted from exposure to the balancing market for a limited period of time—either until satisfactory and fair arrangements are made, or until the amount of wind on the system reaches the point where measurable operational penalties are incurred. This is not "special pleading" for wind, rather a reversal of the present situation where wind receives unfair treatment".


  This occurs at all levels, from local populations wary of unfamiliar technology, to a generalised tendency to prefer the status quo in large institutions as diverse as MoD, NGC and Ofgem.

  To help overcome this latter point, a genuinely integrated effort between Government departments, with a supporting "awareness of need and familiarity with the technology" information programme would be a considerable boon to introducing more renewables into the system. This would be helpful whether the agenda was climate change, sustainable generation, security of supply or any similar policy agenda.


  Wind energy is a well-established technology, with more than 20,000MW installed around the world. Typical prices for onshore generation in the UK are between 3-4p/kWh. Wind energy is secure and sustainable. Significant volumes of wind energy can be integrated into the grid to replace scheduled shutdown of thermal plant without disruption to supply. Wind's intermittency does not threaten grid stability. Offshore wind is itself a potentially large industry. The UK is the windiest country in Europe.

  For your convenience, I have appended both our submission to the Energy Review team and our letter to the regulator, together with a copy of our document "Planning for wind energy: a guide for regional targets" which outlines an equitable regional split of the DTI's scenario for onshore wind energy [not printed].

  Further details on many of these topics are available at our web-site and

  We will be pleased to make ourselves available for oral examination by the Committee at its convenience.

31 October 2001

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