That’s the astonishing rate at which offshore wind turbines went up around the UK last year1. In fact, the UK installed 60% of European new offshore wind capacity in 2017.

On average, offshore wind currently contributes just over 6% of the nation’s electricity demand, but the existing 1,762 wind turbines dotted offshore are anticipated to increase by 50% within the next five years. The sector’s ambition is for a greater than 4x increase in operating capacity by the 2030s, making it (in aggregate) among the UK’s largest infrastructure developments.

Assets are coming on line much sooner than in the past. As with many other renewable energy technologies the cost of offshore wind is falling rapidly as the technology develops, through economies of scale and as construction and operational experience evolves. 2017 saw the first operational 8MW turbines (think 80m blades!) becoming operational and the world’s first floating wind-farm off the coast of Aberdeen.

Evolution of wind turbine heights and output

Until recently it seemed almost impossible for the UK to transition to being powered mainly by renewable sources in an affordable and secure way. But as the recently published, National Infrastructure Assessment Report2 states, “It is now possible to conceive of a low-cost electricity system that is principally powered by renewable energy sources”. (The National Infrastructure Commission was established in 2015 to provide five-yearly assessments of the UK’s infrastructure needs). The Commission goes on to recommend that at least 50%, and up to 65%, of the UK’s electricity in 2030 should come from renewables. It suggests this could be achieved with costs comparable to what consumers pay today for their energy (in real terms).

When it comes to offshore wind, the UK is leading the world.

Across the Kames ethical fund range we hold the following:

John Laing Plc – Infrastructure developer – over a quarter of its portfolio is renewables (wind and solar).

Orsted A/S – Built the world’s first offshore wind-farm in 1991 and has just completed the world’s largest offshore windfarm at Walney, off the coast of Cumbria and able to power 600,000 homes.

Greater Gabbard & Wods Transmission OFTO’s – ‘Offshore Transmission Owners’ – OFTO’s assets broadly comprise offshore and onshore substations and cabling connecting the wind-farm to the mainland.

SSE – 1,420 MW of offshore wind – third largest UK offshore wind owner and part owner of the Greater Gabbard offshore wind-farm.

1 Crown Estates – Offshore wind operational report, 2017
2 National Infrastructure Commission – National Infrastructure Assessment 2018

About the author

Ryan Smith is Head of ESG Research. He joined Kames Capital in October 2000 as an SRI analyst and was appointed to his current position in September 2002. He has 18 years’ industry experience*. His role involves managing the team that conducts the ESG screening process for our Responsible Investing funds. Ryan’s team also provides corporate governance screening and research for all equity investments, and conducts research into environmental and social issues. Before joining us, he worked as an environmental chemist for Severn Trent Water. Ryan has an MSc in Environmental Chemistry from Nottingham Trent University and is a CFA charterholder (*as at 30 June 2018).

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