India looks offshore; more Scottish jitters

The week in clean energy saw the Scottish vote inject doubt into projects north and south of the border while India announced it was weighing a 1GW offshore wind target.

Over the last week, news headlines in the UK and abroad have been dominated by the referendum on Scottish independence scheduled for this Thursday. If voters choose to leave the UK, Scotland would likely see renewable energy investment drop due to uncertainty about future support, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance research.

Some developers have already responded to the referendum uncertainty: Infinis, a renewable power company, said in August that it would wait until after September 18 to take final investment decisions on the 55MW Galawhistle and the 48MW A’Chruach onshore wind farms.

The ‘continuing UK’ – i.e. England, Wales and Northern Ireland – may also experience a short-term reduction, though some projects in those countries might benefit if projects in Scotland are no longer eligible for support under the contracts for difference program. One of the eight projects that qualified in April for early contract-for-difference support is SSE’s 664MW Beatrice offshore wind project in Scottish waters.

Generally, the continuing UK government will find it tough to convince its electorate to continue supporting new renewable energy development north of the border, though both nations are likely to want to avoid retroactive changes on existing projects.

As for the wider electricity sector, Bloomberg New Energy Finance analysis suggests that the most cost-effective approach would be to continue a single, integrated power market of England, Wales and Scotland. That said, divergent policy on nuclear and renewables payments may lead the continuing UK to argue for some separation. In fact, Scotland may be more dependent on England and Wales as a customer. Less than 5 per cent of net annual electricity consumption in England and Wales was met by Scottish generation over 2004-12. A greater share came from continental Europe via the 3.5GW of interconnectors, with another 5GW planned for operation by 2020.

Elsewhere in global clean energy, India is due to introduce a policy aiming at 1GW of offshore wind by 2020, seeking to emulate Europe’s success with this technology. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy will seek cabinet approval for the policy shortly, joint secretary Alok Srivastava told Bloomberg News on Friday. Seeking to emulate Europe’s success, India already has some 21GW of onshore wind farms but as yet none at sea. It is looking offshore as the best sites on land fill up and poor roads restrain the use of larger, more productive turbines.

A target of 1GW by 2020 would be a tough ask, however, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s H2 2014 Offshore Wind Market Outlook. It will take some time for a proper policy to be put in place and then years to build an offshore wind industry. At most, India will have a project or two in place by 2020 but development is more likely to be restricted to some demonstration sites. In the meantime, Suzlon, India’s top wind player, is in talks with Japanese companies about forming a joint venture to make offshore wind turbines, attracted by access to cheap yen loans.

This would not be the first recent offshore wind partnership, as projects at sea become costlier and more complex. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Denmark’s Vestas teamed up last year, followed by Areva of France and Spain’s Gamesa in January, and General Electric’s acquisition of Alstom’s power assets in June.

Graph of the week: Australia is likely to see $US2.9 billion of clean energy investment in 2014 if its renewable energy target is not modified

Graph for India looks offshore; more Scottish jitters

Originally published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Reproduced with permission.