The UK renewable energy industry has lost 4.4GW of planned electricity generation since the beginning of February – the equivalent capacity of more than two nuclear power stations.
In a series of setbacks to the Government’s legally binding target of matching 15% of the country’s energy needs from renewables by 2020, seven key installations have either been shelved, scaled back or are now stalled in the past four weeks.
This week, the developers of the £250m Blyth biomass power station blamed a lack of clear Government support for their decision to pull the plug on plans for the 100MW installation.
The shock decision capped a terrible period for the utility-scale renewable energy sector, which listed a catalogue of pulled schemes, including:
* Thames Array second phase: 240MW AXED
* Dalnessie wind farm (SSE): 81MW AXED
* Fairburn wind farm (SSE): 36MW AXED
* Navitus Bay: 130MW SCALED BACK
* Dogger Bank (Forewind) 1.8GW SCALED BACK
* Blyth Biomass Power Station (RES): 110MW AXED
* Eggborough Biomass Power Station (Eggborough Power): 2GW STALLED
The combined loss of 4.4GW of energy potential follows the news at the end of last year of abandoned plans for Scottish Power’s Argyll Array and RWE’s Atlantic Array, which wiped out 3GW of the UK’s green energy capacity ambitions.
There is currently 20MW of renewable energy projects currently awaiting approval in the UK. However, according to the latest official figures, just 13 new renewable energy projects have been submitted for official sign-off since the beginning of 2014.
The combined capacity of the three solar and 10 onshore applications is 309.7MW.
The Crown Estate also confirmed that no new leases or deals have been signed with the offshore wind industry since the beginning of February.
And of the 36 applications decided since the beginning of the year, 10 were refused, 8 were withdrawn and 18, with a combined capacity of 383MW, were approved – including the 120MW Forth Port biomass scheme and a 108MW onshore windfarm at Bhlaraidh.
Jennifer Webber, director of external affairs at trade association RenewableUK, said the Government should now act to provide investor confidence in the green energy sector.
She told ClickGreen: “Whilst there remains a lot of projects in the pipeline it’s disappointing news that withdrawal of capacity has outpaced investment in renewables this month.
“The value of wind energy is shown by the fact it provided 11% of our power in February – at a time when the country really needed it. The Environmental Audit Committee this week found that there’s an investment gap in low carbon power, and made some very sensible suggestions about how to address this.
“We urge the Government to look at their recommendations on creating a solid low carbon investment climate with a clear future trajectory. The Government has an immediate chance to show its commitment to renewables investors by not freezing the carbon price floor in the Budget, and we hope they will take this chance to reassure the sector”.
And Greenpeace chief scientist Dr Doug Parr added: “Whilst most of the world’s major economies are embracing the renewables revolution, the UK government’s rhetoric and policy confusion on clean energy is putting off investments and hampering one of the most dynamic sectors of our economy.
“By failing to give clear investment signals, Britain’s not just giving up on job creation, it’s also locking itself into a future of higher dependence on the volatile economics of oil and gas imports and expensive nuclear energy.
“That’s why it’s crucial that David Cameron reins back on the ambiguous signals from government and pushes for a binding target for renewables at the EU summit later this month alongside measures to tackle climate change."
A spokesperson for DECC, said tonight: “Government is committed to cost effective renewable energy and we have a strong pipeline of renewable energy projects - in January 2014 alone we saw applications totalling 310MW, compared to 139MW in the same period last year.
“Bloomberg analysis shows that in 2013 clean energy investment increased by 13% in the UK, the only major market in Europe to grow.”