Associate Feature: Working to make climate change ambitions a reality
Onshore wind is already the largest clean energy employer in Scotland, supporting 8,800 jobs and contributing £2.2bn each year.1
In Scotland, our onshore wind portfolio continues to expand with 10 operational onshore wind farms. We have 1.5GW of projects in the current pipeline for onshore and offshore wind in Scotland, at various stages. This includes our flagship offshore wind farm Neart Na Gaiothe (NnG) in the Firth of Forth, due to be completed in 2024. Once commissioned it will have a capacity of 450MW, enough power to supply around 375,000 homes – offsetting more than 400,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.2 The total investment for the NnG offshore wind project is around £2 billion; it has created more than 100 direct jobs, with many more through the supply chain.
Across the UK in 2022, we invested more than £380 million in the UK and Ireland, allowing us to bring nine renewables projects online this year.
2023 is set to be another pivotal year for EDF Renewables UK with ambitious plans to expand our onshore wind portfolio in Scotland. For our onshore and offshore projects, key milestones will be reached. This includes construction progressing at our 84MW Stranoch wind farm in Dumfries and Galloway and commissioning of our 30MW West Benhar wind farm in North Lanarkshire. Planning applications will be submitted for Watten wind farm in Caithness and Dunside wind farm in the Borders.
A priority for all of us is energy security. There is a growing emphasis being placed on the importance of self-reliance when it comes to energy generation.
A diverse mix of renewable energy technologies, including onshore wind, has a critical role to play in ensuring energy security. In addition, increasing our renewable generation capacity will reduce the amount of gas-fired electricity generation that we need, helping to decouple electricity prices from high gas prices.
Jobs, supply chain and the local economy
Our commitment to Scotland and the domestic supply chain is as strong as it has ever been. We continue to work closely with our Scottish suppliers to ensure Scotland benefits as much as possible from our renewables projects.
Setting clear targets for onshore wind development across Scotland and the UK, coupled with supportive policy enhancements, will boost investment and market confidence. However, the industry wants to work with government to build on this favourable environment for investment and make sure Scotland, and the UK, maximises on the growth of its supply chain.
There is certainly room for the growth of wind power but it is important that we develop renewable projects responsibly. We are committed to working closely with local communities to make sure our projects are of benefit to them and the natural environment.
Skills and workforce
With renewable energy continuing to be a high-growth industry and one with endless career opportunities, we are passionate about bringing people on board who want to make a difference and act against climate change by creating a low carbon energy system.
In Scotland, we currently employ over 160 people with an office in Edinburgh including 100 working on the NnG project. The recent opening of the project’s Operations and Maintenance base at Eyemouth Harbour, built by Muir Construction of Fife, is a major milestone. It will bring provide up to 50 permanent jobs over the 25-year lifespan of the project.
Building on the success of our Wind Turbine Apprenticeship scheme, we have recently announced the opening of our next round of applications for apprentices and graduates.
A huge part of our success is down to the communities we are part of and work closely with.
From the very early stages of a project’s life, we embed ourselves within communities and we go over and above the ‘norm’ to build long-lasting relationships. We want local businesses to benefit from our investment – whether that is directly through gaining contracts for construction work; workers staying in local accommodation, or providing jobs for local people.
At our 177MW Dorenell wind farm, we spent £50 million on construction. A Ranger Service is now established to maintain the environment around the wind farm for wildlife and visitors. We spent £1.4 million locally on operating costs in 2021. This included facilities management, a new visitor centre and delivering habitat management.
For 2022 in Scotland, more than £1million was awarded from our wind farm funds to over 209 projects including 115 education and training bursaries.
This has included funding for an innovative drama project with a local primary school in Clackmannanshire and funding improvements to the ladies’ locker room at a local golf club to make it more appealing for local people to use.
Other examples include funding a project manager for an outdoor charity to engage and train young people in woodland management and a grant for new ice-making equipment at the Borders Ice Rink to secure the rink’s future.
To ensure an arm’s length approach, our community benefit funds are administered through third parties.
We continue to put communities at the heart of our projects and this will only strengthen as we accelerate our growth and ambitions over the coming years.
Barriers and challenges
Various barriers remain that impact on the development of renewables in Scotland, hampering deployment, reducing investment in the UK based supply chain and increasing consumer bills. Government, industry and regulators have a role to play in overcoming these barriers.
The grid challenges faced in rural areas of Scotland continues to create issues in the timely deployment of renewable energy and the potential for new developments.
Scottish Government has a role in communicating the need for more transmission capacity to the National Grid ESO and Ofgem.
Lack of tier 1 suppliers, such as manufacturers, in Scotland is having an impact on our supply chain causing business and workers to be brought in from elsewhere to fill gaps. We do encourage our tier 1 suppliers and others sub-contracting to utilise Scottish, and UK skills and businesses first and foremost.
While renewables continue to be the cheapest way of generating electricity, it is important to note that the costs of key components for renewable technologies have risen significantly over the last year.
We need to be more ambitious when it comes to setting the Contract for Difference (CfD) budgets. While the CfD scheme is not a Scottish Government responsibility, it has a role in explaining to Westminster the scale of opportunity and benefits of further renewable energy development in Scotland.
While we welcome the final National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4), we want to see the planning process streamlined with appropriate site selection and design being a priority in decision making.
Planning policy and guidance does not always support the most up-to-date and efficient turbine designs with higher tip heights, used as standard internationally, which would deliver even better value for consumers in suitable high-wind UK sites.
The level of clear policy support for renewable energy within NPF4 is a great model for the rest of the UK. Resourcing and capacity by local planning departments and statutory consultees is one area which has stilted applications progressing through the system and needs to be better supported if we want to meet our net zero targets and tackle climate change.
Calls to action
The CfD scheme is vital for the long-term deployment of renewable energy projects and provides important visibility to the supply chain to invest in renewables for the long term. We want to continue to ensure a consistent route to market exists via the CfD auction.
We must enable quicker planning decisions in Scotland. We wholeheartedly support the Scottish Government’s clear backing for renewable energy by placing significant weight on the contribution of development proposals to renewable energy generation targets and greenhouse gas emission reduction targets in NPF4.
It is in the interest of everyone to bring forward large volumes of renewable projects as fast as possible both in terms of decarbonisation but also because it provides the best value for consumers. At EDF Renewables UK, we’re dedicated to making this ambition a reality.
1 The Onshore Wind Industry Prospectus – Renewable UK – 2021 (Foreword p3)
2 Based upon the average domestic electricity consumption per home of 3,889 kWh per the Energy Consumption in the UK (published July 2017) and Renewable-UK offshore wind average load factor at 37.2%.
Sarah Dooley is Principal Development Manager at EDF Renewables UK
This article is sponsored by EDF