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Why not deliver low cost, low carbon energy for consumers? - Lindsay McQuade, CEO ScottishPower Renewables

23/11/2018

The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark, has set out his vision for the future of the energy sector.

His vision of four guiding principles of market, insurance, agility and fairness, is something that everyone in the energy sector must support.  The trick will be how these principles will be implemented, by both Government and the energy sector.

At ScottishPower, we share that vision and we are working to make it a reality. Just last month we became the first integrated energy supplier in the UK to generate power 100% from renewable energy. ScottishPower has closed all of its coal power plants and sold off its gas stations, which means my company now generates 100% of our electricity from wind power.

The Secretary of State’s speech was largely a response to Prof Dieter Helm’s independent Review of Energy Costs. But in a speech about the cost of energy, what was missing, surprisingly, was any mention of the lowest cost source of electricity. Onshore wind is the cheapest option for new power bar none – cheaper than gas, nuclear and other renewables – and that success has been driven by strategic investment in the sector and innovation by firms across the industry. We can deliver new onshore wind without subsidies and could even pay money back to consumers, if the right mechanism was in place.

The reason we need to make the most of low-cost technologies, like onshore wind, was clear in the Secretary of State’s speech, where he talked about the creation of “the possibility in which low carbon power can actually subtract from consumer bills” – onshore wind can do this today. The Secretary of State also noted “energy is special” – I agree.  We need energy to power our smart homes, workplaces and travel.  Electricity will become an increasingly important asset to us all as we move to decarbonise the transport and heat sectors of the economy.  We should be enabling mechanisms to bring forward the most cost effective of green, clean electricity to meet that demand at lowest cost to consumers.

We know that investing in new onshore wind would also help the UK achieve its industrial strategy ambition of transforming industries and improving the competitiveness of firms all across the UK. A recent report from BVG Associates showed that new investment in onshore wind would support 18,000 construction jobs and create a further 8,500 long-term, skilled jobs operating and maintaining new turbines. But how do we get that new investment flowing?

That’s the key question that I, and the rest of the industry, will be grappling with when we gather for our Onshore 2018 Conference in Edinburgh next week. Clearly, Governments in Westminster and Holyrood can do more to help industry keep those costs as low as possible through making sure regulation doesn’t add unnecessary risk and by removing barriers to access cost effective energy. The good news is that Government already has the toolkit.

For ScottishPower, there is a simple action the Secretary of State can take to bring forward new investment and it doesn’t require any new legislation or consultations. To fully take advantage of the opportunity of cheap onshore wind for consumers, businesses and investors – and to close the gap to the 5th Carbon Budget in 2032 – Government should support onshore projects in Contracts for Difference auctions. We’ve seen the incredible impact of these auctions in bringing down the cost of offshore wind in recent years and a new set of auctions for onshore wind would deliver record low prices, and provide a net payback of £1.6bn to consumers.

As the cheapest source of new power, there is an alternative, albeit niche, route. Onshore wind projects delivered through Corporate Power Purchase Agreements are likely to become a part of the landscape in the energy sector.  It’s great to see household names realising the value that investing in technologies like onshore wind can bring and they’re not just doing it because they want to be green. It makes economic sense.

However, I don’t just want big business to benefit from the cheapest form of new build electricity generation. I want the consumer at large to benefit.

Access to further CfD auctions will drive competition, deliver cheap, clean, green electricity, create and sustain jobs across the UK, and help achieve carbon reduction targets.  It also has the added benefit of getting the best deal for the UK consumer!

I am part of an industry waiting to deliver on the Secretary of State’s vision for a low carbon, low cost energy future for consumers. What we need from Government is policy and regulation that supports the growth of onshore wind energy.

Lindsay McQuade - CEO, ScottishPower Renewables

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