Matthew Wright, UK managing director, Ørsted Electricity generation, Electricity retail, Energy retail, Gas retail, Generation, Low-carbon generation, Wind, Opinion, Matthew Wright, Orsted

“A ‘net zero’ carbon pollution goal requires a green industrial revolution that will be unprecedented in scope and scale – but is achievable if we act now.”

Climate change is one of the most profound challenges of our time. A decade on from the UK Climate Change Act and three years after the Paris Agreement on climate change, we have had a stark recent warning from IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) scientists that carbon pollution must fall to ‘net zero’ in around three decades to hold global warming to a 1.5 degrees limit. This goal requires a green industrial revolution that will be unprecedented in scope and scale. It’s a huge transformation, but one that I believe is achievable if we act now.

At Ørsted, we see green energy as a reason for optimism in the face of this challenge. One year ago, we sold our oil and gas business, and dedicated ourselves to being an entirely renewable energy company. And in the 12 months that have passed since we became Ørsted, we’ve already seen milestones reached that were inconceivable just a few years ago.

In the 2017 contract for difference auction in the UK, offshore wind projects won contracts with a strike price of £57.50 – less than half that of the winning bids in the 2015 auction. Most experts in the industry predict that prices will fall even further as we continue to drive innovation across the sector.

Last month, I was fortunate enough to officially open the world’s largest operational offshore wind farm, Walney Extension. It is 659 megawatts in size and can power nearly 600,000 UK homes. It’s a huge infrastructure project, yet we are now developing projects that are twice the size. Hornsea Project One and Project Two are utility-scale offshore wind farms, each of which will be capable of powering more than a million homes.

Of course, tackling climate change is not something we can do alone, and we are working with a range of partners and suppliers to build a thriving green economy for the UK. For example, during the construction of Walney Extension, our project team worked collaboratively with over 50 UK suppliers, including cable protection specialist Tekmar and cable installation specialist DeepOcean, both based in Teesside. Blades for the project came from the Siemens Gamesa factory in Hull and the MHI Vestas Isle of Wight facility.

These partnerships highlight how offshore wind in the UK is bringing benefits beyond green energy. As more projects are built and operated, coastal areas such as Grimsby and Barrow will see an increase in job opportunities, supplier contracts and business for local hotels, taxis and restaurants. We are currently building the UK’s largest operations base for offshore wind power generation in Grimsby, which will provide 400 jobs when our current construction projects are finalised.

Looking more broadly, I see offshore wind as being the backbone of the UK’s future energy system. As an industry, we are calling for a target to generate 30 gigawatts through offshore wind by 2030 – equivalent to a third of UK energy consumption.

We will need other technologies that can help transform the way we produce power too, and at Ørsted we believe that energy storage, demand-size management and waste-to-energy will all be key parts of the solution. That’s why we have taken our first steps into commercial battery storage with a project in Liverpool, and our Renescience bioenergy plant in Cheshire will be able to treat 120,000 tonnes of household waste per year.

A year on from our company moving away from fossil fuels, I am proud to be part of an organisation that has a vision of a world that runs entirely on green energy. There is undoubtedly a lot of work ahead, but we can look at the progress being made in the UK with pride – we were the first country to introduce legally binding emissions targets through the Climate Change Act. We now have a world-leading offshore wind industry, and the government is committed to further clean growth. In the face of the stark warning from the IPCC, surely now is the time to renew our mission to build a clean and affordable energy future.

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