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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

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MP outlines key role for county

BRITAIN’S Energy Coast will continue to play a leading role in the renewable energy industry.

That was the message at a glittering event for industry leaders and VIPs earlier this month as Danish energy giant Dong Energy marked the official inauguration of the Walney Windfarm. The new energy and climate change secretary, Ed Davey, was special guest at the inauguration and pledged his own – and the government’s, continued commitment to renewable energy.

The Walney windfarm, which is made up of 108 turbines, has a total capacity of 367 megawatts (MW) and is the biggest operational development of its kind in the world.

Walney is Dong’s fourth UK windfarm and the company’s second off the coast of Barrow. Dong’s first British windfarm, Barrow Offshore Windfarm, was opened six years ago.

At the inauguration, held at Barrow Town Hall, Dong’s chief executive, Anders Eldrup revealed Furness and Britain’s Energy Coast would continue to play a big part in the company’s renewable energy plans.

He said: “This area will be a hub in the future... Cumbria will play a big part in our offshore developments. We have been granted an extension to our Walney windfarm which is quite a significant extra acreage and we are looking into all the development issues now.

“In the future this area will become a very significant one for Dong Energy because we have Walney, Barrow, the extensions to those windfarms, West of Duddon Sands and further south, the Burbo windfarms.”

One of the key messages from industry leaders was the need to cut costs – something the companies present at the inauguration claim to be making headway with.

Mr Eldrup said: “Predictability and stability is crucial for these investments.”

Jim Smith, managing director of SSE Renewables, agreed.

He said: “Our investment is a clear sign of our aim to continue to be the UK’s largest renewable energy provider.

“If we are to exploit the vast potential of offshore wind we have to reduce costs, which will result in an affordable price and make the industry sustainable. We are committed and focused on reducing costs.

“The industry needs to become smaller and leaner. It has been a pleasure to work with Dong – offshore does have a real potential.”

But Mr Davey said one of the key elements of the government’s strategy was to ensure there was a mix of renewable energy production methods.

He said: “We are not trying to favour one technology over another. We need to ensure the subsidies are reduced as things become more competitive.”

Although he was speaking in his first week as energy secretary, Mr Davey said he was as enthusiastic as his predecessor Chris Huhne, if not more so, in his commitment to renewable energy.

He said: “This is an early stage in this industry’s life but the potential is huge, particularly in offshore wind in Britain.”

And he also agreed that Britain’s Energy Coast would continue to play a significant role in the UK’s commitment to cutting carbon emissions and moving away from fossil fuels.

He said: “This is a great day for Cumbria and I’m sure many people are delighted the world’s biggest windfarm is here. That’s a very positive thing for this part of our country.”

More work is set to come Cumbria’s way too, experts claim.

For the windfarms built off the coast of Barrow, construction of the turbines is undertaken on the continent and the structures are then shipped over to Belfast and finally to the Furness coast. But industry bosses said as technology develops, more work will need to be done closer to the windfarms’ locations.

Mr Eldrup said: “Bigger turbines will have to be constructed close to the sites where they are installed. As bigger turbines are used, more and more construction will take place close to the sites.”

Although much has been made in the national press of the huge subsidies the government pays to windfarm developers – almost £850m a year in total, Mr Davey insisted the funding was necessary to ensure the industry was viable.

He said: “The government funding is to make the windfarms possible; the Renewable Obligation Certificate ensures money is directed into these very important developments.”

The government remains under pressure, however, to slash the subsidies and is looking at cuts of between five and 10 per cent.

As windfarm costs come down, industry leaders remain positive that developments will remain financially viable.

And Mr Davey concluded: “We are very clear that investors and consumers will see our commitment in terms of allowing a more predictable and attractive rate of return even as production costs fall.”

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