Scotland has an abundance of wind both onshore and offshore, and has many onshore wind farms that are contributing to Scotland's green future, such as Whitelee wind farm in East Renfrewshire - Scotland's largest onshore development. But the First Minister for Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, is concerned that the UK government budget allocation for offshore wind is not going to be enough to allow the industry to develop as it should.
Consequently the Scottish First Minister called on the government to guarantee funding which would allow offshore wind to be delivered on a far greater scale. She said that it was time for the UK government to show "greater ambition". The government's own Department for Energy and Climate Change has already said that there is "huge potential" for future wind deployment in Scotland. Yet only one Scottish offshore wind farm received a share of the£260m set aside for wind projects from 2016-2018 and beyond.
Disappointingly, two major offshore wind farms were refused the 15-year Contracts For Difference (CFDs), which would have guaranteed a price for the power generated. Without that guarantee there was uncertainty and timidity in exploiting offshore wind.
Outspoken as ever, she said:
"Scotland has made huge progress in renewables deployment in Scotland, generating enough renewable energy to meet 44% of Scotland's annual electricity demand, generating millions of pounds of community benefit, and displacing an estimated 12 million tonnes of carbon dioxide across the UK. Scottish onshore wind is now considerably cheaper than new nuclear, thanks to sustained support and large-scale deployment of projects such as Scottish Power's Whitelee development. We are already seeing cost reductions in offshore wind but the scale of growth planned for the sector will be a key driver to delivering further cost reductions for the long-term benefit of consumers. It is essential that the UK government provide confidence to the offshore wind industry that sufficient money will be available in future allocation rounds to allow the sector to move forward with assurance and enable costs to be further reduced. Without this ambition Scotland risks missing the opportunity to cement the growth of an industry, with significant supply chain benefits, while de-carbonising our energy supply."
The wind is there. The willingness, in principle, to invest is also there, and there are likely to be a lot of jobs created if large offshore projects get the go-ahead. But building on the success to date will not happen unless a sustained and stable funding stream can be guaranteed for the future.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change boasts that the UK is the world leader in offshore wind and has huge potential for future deployment, including in Scotland. So what are they doing to improve matter? They recently announced the first allocation round for CFDs, which included a contract for a new Scottish offshore wind farm. The actual budget for the next allocation round will be determined later in 2015. It could rise to over £1 billion per year by the end of this decade.