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25 May 2010

Report confirms North Sea as “Saudi Arabia of wind”

If less than a third of the viable marine energy resource identified in British territorial waters in the North Sea, especially wind power, was exploited, clean renewable energy sources could generate energy equivalent to the burning of a billion barrels of oil per annum until 2050.


This is one of the key findings of The Offshore Valuation, a groundbreaking report comparing North Sea offshore energy potential with the region`s oil and gas production published by The Offshore Valuation Group, a coalition of government and industry organisations. The report was coordinated by the public research organisation, Public Interest Research Centre, which appointed Boston Consulting to conduct the analysis. The aim of the study was to broaden the understanding of the potential value of wind, wave and tidal energy in the UK.

"The results exceed all expectations," the report’s authors say. They suggest that using less than a third of the total available offshore energy resource could: generate the electricity equivalent of 1 billion barrels of oil annually; create 145,000 new jobs in this country; provide the Treasury with up to £164 billion in tax receipts; enable Britain to become a net exporter of electricity by 2050; and reduce carbon emissions relative to 1990 levels by 30%.

Currently, the UK aims to reach 32 GW of installed marine power in 2020. However, "the next four decades of technological development may enable us to operate ten times the planned capacity," says the report. This could be achieved through increased deployment of offshore wind, tidal and wave power.

In order to fulfil this potential, the UK should take a proactive role in European negotiations to establish an offshore supergrid which is needed to evacuate the power produced by wind farms. Thus, the country could become a net electricity exporter.

"This is a hugely exciting piece of research which sets out compelling factual evidence of the huge potential of the UK`s offshore renewable energy resource. As an association we have long been saying that the North Sea will become the Saudi Arabia of wind energy, and today`s tonne of oil and employment comparisons amply bear this out,” said Peter Madigan, Head of Offshore Renewables at RenewableUK (formerly the British Wind Energy Assocation), commenting on the announcement. “Just as 30 years ago, the North Sea could be our ticket for economic growth. We are looking forward to the new Government putting in place the policy framework to make this happen."

The report investigates three scenarios: the most conservative of which involving 13% of the potential resource being employed and the most ambitious suggesting 76% of the potential resource is used. In all cases, offshore wind would provide over 80% of the energy.

In the first instance, 13% of the potential resource would generate 78 GW with an investment of £170 billion, generating tax revenue of £28 billion, while the most optimistic scenario sees 76% of the potential resource generating 406 GW at a cost of £993 billion and generating £164 billion in tax revenue. In the first scenario, the UK would cover 50% of its electricity demand, while in the second it would be a net exporter of primary energy.

Offshore Valuation Group Members

1. The Department of Energy & Climate Change

2. The Scottish Government

3. The Welsh Assembly Government

4. The Crown Estate

5. Energy Technologies Institute

6. Scottish & Southern Energy

7. RWE Innogy

8. E.ON

9. DONG Energy

10. Statoil

11. Mainstream Renewable Power

12. Renewable Energy Systems (RES)

13. Vestas

14. Public Interest Research Centre