The week ahead: offshore focus for renewables funding

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A report published today urges the government to rethink the way it subsidises renewable energy technologies by restructuring auctions proposed under its Electricity Market Reform.

The report, ‘Going, Going, Gone: The role of auctions and competition in renewable electricity support’ from the Policy Exchange takes aim at the offshore industry in particular, arguing that it is an immature technology that should, along with other such solutions, be placed into a restructured auction system.

Under EMR, different forms of renewables will bid against each other for state support from 2018 at the earliest for projects commissioned after 2020.

Authors of the report believe auctioning for mature technologies should be introduced as early as next year for projects commissioning in 2017.

They look to Brazil as a prime example of how auctioning has led to a drop in onshore wind prices, which went as low as £27MWh compared to £95MWh in Britain.

They say: ‘Immature technologies such as offshore wind, which are not ready to compete with other low carbon sources, should compete with similar technologies in a separate set of auctions with a fixed budget.

‘Those technologies would be subject to a reserve price in the auction which corresponds to a descending cost structure. If the technology hasn’t met that cost in the stipulated time-frame it would lose its subsidy.’

The think tank, whose report can be found here, urge also for the abolition of the EU Renewable Energy Target, which they say imposes unnecessary costs on attempts to decarbonise.

It takes around 3,000 components to build an offshore wind turbine and the industry itself is estimated to be worth £100bn over the next 20 years.

England’s SMEs are in a prime position to get involved with supplying a range of components and a new appointment has been made to make this happen.

Nick Kirsop-Taylor has been named by the Manufacturing Advisory Service as the supply chain specialist for the recently launched GROW: OffshoreWind service.

The £20m scheme has been created to ensure that English manufacturers gain a significant share of the opportunities presented by the UK’s offshore wind market.

Delivered by MAS, RenewableUK, Grant Thornton and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, the service will offer a package of consultancy, technology, market intelligence and funding support up to £500,000. More details can be found on the GROW: OffshoreWind website.

Tomorrow’s energy solutions – plus pressing solutions required from all of the engineering disciplines – will clearly require a fresh stream of talent, which brings us to Colchester, a town that hosts the Big Bang@Essex University today.

The Big Bang@Essex University brings together its usual compelling mix of activities and demonstrations to foster an interest science, maths, engineering and computing.

Among the activities to encourage young people to engage in STEM subjects will be demonstrations of crowd control, coral reef research and climate change, and how the human brain functions. The university’s annual Computer Science and Electronic Engineering Lectures for GCSE and A-Level students will also be part of the event.

Still with the next generation of engineers and news that Christmas has come early for 25 schools that have been chosen to receive free LEGOMINDSTORMS Education EV3 STEM sets worth £3,000.

The initiative is part of a pilot of the Elite Engineering Programme (EEP) that our Secret Engineer would no doubt advocate.

EEP says it is an educational initiative established to ‘reignite the UK’s status as a world leader in engineering and encourage disadvantaged young people to consider careers in engineering.’

They invited schools across England, Scotland and Wales to apply and campaign for the LEGOMINDSTORMS sets and prioritised the 25 recipients on the basis of net benefit from the new tools, the enthusiasm of the school’s application, and the support it receives from the local community.

Teachers will receive free training on how to use the new resource to deliver the STEM National Curriculum, and Key Stage 3 students (aged 12+ years) will be encouraged to build programmable robots that will compete against others in regional and national contests.