It will soon be my one-year anniversary at Orsted and, ever since joining the company, one thing has become very clear to me: the momentum behind renewable energy is unstoppable. The traditional energy system in the UK is breaking down and being replaced with a new energy paradigm, based around green power and smarter technology. This makes it a very exciting time for the industry and particularly for renewables.
One of the key factors in the transition has been the deployment of offshore wind at massive scale, allowing costs to be dramatically reduced. Last year, Britain accounted for more than half of new offshore wind power capacity built in all of Europe, installing 53 per cent of the net 3.15 gigawatts across the continent.
Six months ago, our company won a government contract to build the world’s largest offshore wind farm, Hornsea Project Two, at a price 50 per cent lower than the previous auction just two years earlier. The project will have a capacity of 1.4 gigawatts – that’s bigger than the last nuclear power station completed in the UK.
This reduction in cost has surprised many people but now makes the decision to include more offshore wind in our future energy mix an easy one. Accordingly, the industry is currently working to deliver an ambitious and transformational Sector Deal to capitalise on the UK’s global leadership position in offshore wind. We hope this will lead to 30GW of offshore wind capacity being deployed by 2030.
As importantly, the sector deal can play a pivotal role in building a world-class supply chain for the growing international market in offshore wind, boosting productivity and creating thousands more skilled, long-term jobs across the country. This represents the very essence of the UK’s Industrial Strategy – leveraging a source of competitive advantage in domestic markets to exploit opportunities overseas.
This is good news for UK PLC and you only have to look at what’s happening in the Humber to see the massive success story that offshore wind has become, and the burgeoning supply chain opportunities it can create.
Just a couple of weeks ago, we announced Siemens Gamesa as the exclusive turbine supplier for Hornsea Project Two, with the majority of turbine blades to be made in its factory in Hull. The Siemens Gamesa Hull facility is state-of-the-art, employing hundreds of local people. It has already been producing blades for our Race Bank and Walney Extension projects in the UK, and is ideally placed to serve the extensive Northern European offshore wind market.
Over in Grimsby, we’re seeing huge redevelopment thanks to the renewables sector. The town is rapidly becoming a world-class renewable energy hub that people from around the world are coming to visit, admire and learn lessons from.
Offshore wind has the potential to be the backbone of a future world that runs entirely on green energy, but of course there will need to be other elements in that system too. That’s why, at Orsted, we’re investing in energy storage and battery solutions; creating new flexible products for commercial and industrial customers; and building a world-first waste-to-energy plant in Northwich, Cheshire, that will handle up to 120,000 tonnes of household waste per year.
I’m therefore hugely optimistic about the UK’s energy future, especially given the consistent political and government support we’ve had to decarbonise our economy. No doubt there are plenty of challenges to overcome, but a world where smart grids and electric vehicles are powered by renewable energy may not be that far away. And as I approach my one-year Orsted anniversary, I think this prospect really is something worth celebrating.
Matthew Wright will be speaking at Utility Week Energy Summit in Westminster in June