Wind costs fall to record low

 The Burbo Bank Offshore Wind Farm is a 348 MW offshore wind farm located on the Burbo Flats in Liverpool Bay. Picture: Getty.

The Burbo Bank Offshore Wind Farm is a 348 MW offshore wind farm located on the Burbo Flats in Liverpool Bay. Picture: Getty.

By BEL JACOBS

On Monday, energy history was made when the price of offshore wind power dropped to a record-breaking low, halving in just two years.

The costs are way below the price the next nuclear reactors will charge, making the form of clean energy one of the cheapest ways to supply the grid.

In a government auction that handed out power-purchase contracts worth 176 million pounds ($232 million) a year, all of the bids to build offshore wind farms and other renewable technologies were below the £92.50 per megawatt-hour price awarded to the controversial Hinkley Point atomic plant.

This is the price the government agreed in order to persuade the French and Chinese to build the new nuclear plant, due to be completed in the next decade.

The wind power winners include the Danish utility Dong Energy A/S, with an offer of £57.50 per megawatt-hour for power from its Hornsea offshore wind farm, and EDP Renovaveis SA and Engie SA, which will receive the same for their Moray Fifth East project.

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The world's largest offshore wind farm is Thanet at Ramsgate. Picture: Reuters. 

This was the U.K.’s second contracts-for-difference auction, where would-be developers compete for projects by bidding the prices they would be willing to accept for their electricity.

The contest was for “less-established technologies” such as offshore wind, tidal and anaerobic digestion.

UK offshore turbines already generate enough electricity to match the needs of four million homes. At the same time, the industry currently provides employment for around 10,000 people. These new contracts look set to create more.

It shouldn’t be a surprise. Around the world, renewables have become cheaper and scaled up faster than predicted. In the UK, offshore wind beat its own cost reduction target four years early - thanks to huge innovation and increases in turbine efficiency.

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In the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, Pope Francis has blasted climate change sceptics.

The euphoria amongst alternative energy campaigners was palpable.

Now, they’re calling for the government’s energy policy to catch up, pointing out that, even though it says it supports offshore wind, the Prime Minister still plans to commit billions of pounds to nuclear - and she still backs a big roll out of fracked gas.

“No one doubts that Hinkley is an economic disaster, but it has been kept alive by a dubious subsidy regime. As a ‘mature technology”, nuclear should never receive a subsidy, which is why there are ongoing legal challenges on this point,’ pointed out Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the southwest of England, in the New Statesman.

Excuse another offshore-related pun but the tide may be turning.

As Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party, told the BBC: "This massive price drop for offshore wind is a huge boost for the renewables industry and should be the nail in the coffin for new nuclear.”

Can you help turn up that pressure even further? Almost 100,000 people have called on the Prime Minister to back clean power in the UK. Sign Greenpeace's petition here.