Offshore Wind Conference blows into Glasgow

28/01/16 | Blog

SR's Offshore Wind Conference this week tackled some big issues at a great new venue, as well as bringing together more than 250 renewables professsionals in Glasgow, Scotland's green energy capital.

Here, Senior Policy Manager Lindsay Roberts mulls over what she took from the event.

Time really does fly when you’re having fun! I’m struggling to believe that this really was the fourth (!) offshore wind conference that I’ve organised with Scottish Renewables. But without doubt, this year’s conference was one of my favourites. So much has changed within the industry since 2011, and we always try to make sure our conference changes with it.

As well as making several alterations to the format (including moving the venue to Strathclyde University’s fantastic Technology and Innovation Centre) we decided to give this year’s conference a more technical focus on innovation and cost reduction.

That naturally led us to partner with the Glasgow-based Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult to deliver a programme that included presentations on some of the sector’s most exciting, cutting-edge research.

Baroness Brown of Cambridge, a Non-Executive Director of the Catapult, opened the event with a stirring call for the industry to collaborate more openly, to share data which can benefit all, and to set a clear agenda outlining our research and development priorities.

Such strategies are common in the automotive and aerospace industries, and former Rolls Royce Director Baroness Brown seemed genuinely frustrated that we haven’t articulated our priorities in the same way. Her slides can be found here.

Nick Gardiner, Head of Offshore Wind for the UK’s Green Investment Bank, followed Baroness Brown, highlighting there’s certainly no shortage of willing investors out there.

Nick was joined by Karl Smith, Fund Managing Director for the GIB’s Offshore Wind Fund, the world’s first dedicated offshore wind fund, and with total committed capital of £818m, the largest renewable energy fund in the UK. Their upbeat views on the availability of finance were reinforced by fantastic presentations from David Hostert of Bloomberg New Energy Finance and Joanna de Montgros of Everoze Partners, who also launched their new Scotland office at conference.

More positivity came from Mainstream Renewable Power, as Andy Kinsella announced that a consortium was lined-up to buy the Neart na Goithe project. £1.5 billion pounds of debt have been secured from commercial banks for the project, which expects to create 500 jobs during construction and over 100 permanent roles during its 25-year operational phase.

The Scottish Government’s Business, Energy and Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing – a well-kent face at Scottish Renewables events, as we say here in Scotland – highlighted the other projects forging ahead in Scottish waters.

The Beatrice development in the Moray Firth is set to be the largest infrastructure project ever in Scotland, outstripping the new Forth Crossing by some margin, while Statoil’s Hywind project has reached FID and is on course to be the most powerful floating offshore wind development in the world.

The Minister seemed particularly pleased at the outcome of the judicial review of Vattenfall’s European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre, praising the developer's commitment to both Scotland and offshore wind in continuing to drive the project forward in spite of the ”legal filibustering” it has brought.

However, this positivity was in stark contrast to the deep frustration expressed by those projects looking to the next allocation round for another chance to secure a Contract for Difference from the UK Government. As one EDPR delegate said:

"The disappointment of not being able to compete is greater than the disappointment of competing and losing.”

EDPR’s Michael Brown also delivered a blistering presentation in which he called for several changes to the current CfD framework, including the introduction of financial penalties for non-delivery and a scrapping of the current clearing mechanism.

Even those developers with CfDs for their current projects highlighted notes of caution for future allocation rounds. Keith Anderson, CEO of ScottishPower Renewables, warned the industry that we ignore the current debate around onshore wind at our peril, saying:

“If we don't fix issues with onshore wind we'll be having the same discussions about offshore wind in two years’ time.”

Detail on future budget sizes, allocation round and delivery year timings and cost reductions is needed as a matter of urgency, as they are absolutely crucial to the continued success of this industry.

So as we start 2016, it’s clear there’s a huge year ahead of us, particularly here in Scotland.

My biggest wish is that our Offshore Wind Conference 2017 gets to showcase the multi-billion pound projects in construction, and projects that have been rewarded for their tenacity with a CfD.

Offshore wind is also on the agenda for our Annual Conference in Edinburgh in March.