Britain and Offshore Windpower: How to make the dream a reality?

Cassia S Januario & Stella Semino

Studenteropgave: Semesterprojekt


Some of the environmental problems we face today are related to the use of energy. There are many conflicting opinions about the abundance or scarcity of the forms of energy we most use, about their environmental effect. Agreements have tried to curtail greenhouse gases, pollution, depletion of natural resources, with differing rates of success. There are possible problems looming ahead with access to fuels such as oil. Many countries have attempted to develop alternative sources of energy to avoid the possible problems of energy depletion, lack of access, and environmental effects such as pollution. This paper reflects on the fact that the UK has the best potential for wind energy in Europe. Over the years they have depended on coal, then oil and gas from the North Sea, but in the last years they have, for the first time in decades, become net importers of energy. They will soon face an energy crisis and are in the midst of an energy review to find solutions to the problem, but there are a number of barriers to the development of a solution. The UK states objectives and targets related to the deployment of renewable energy, but these targets are not being met. The mechanisms being proposed have not been well designed, the targets are not far enough into the future to provide investor confidence, there is little money going towards research, and their political style is not one of setting strict targets. Government, like energy and environmental policy, is fragmented and cannot agree to a long-term plan. We have used offshore wind energy as an illustrative example of policymaking in the UK, and we believe it can help reach the targets proposed, if there is commitment on the part of Government. This kind of energy has much potential to be developed off the cost of Britain, which has some of the windiest sites in the EU. The UK is under pressure by the EU for meeting certain agreed-upon targets, aside from their own self-set targets, and they are under the influence of powerful industry and use opaque decision making methods and agreements. Understanding energy policy history, both in the UK and the EU, is important as it demonstrates long-term trends that are visible today. Understanding who are the stakeholders of energy policy and it’s current reform, and the development of industry, gives clues to decisions made by the UK. We will look at the roles of these stakeholders, focusing on actions by the government and their role in promoting the innovations they claim to seek. The main results we have found are the following: concerning the development of energy policy in the EU, since the formation of the Union, security of supply has been behind the development of nuclear and renewable sources of energy, and has been the motivation for research programmes and the search for alternatives. There has been some conflict between the EU and the UK concerning policy styles: the UK’s consensual, cooperative, opaque government-business agreement way of doing things has not always adapted well. This can be seen in the development of energy policy, which has occurred though fragmented government bodies assigned related and sometimes overlapping duties, there has been a lack of consensus and long term planning, policies are piecemeal and remedial rather than pro-active. Under the theoretical structure we proposed and using our empirical data, we can see that the government does not take an active role in promoting the development of renewable energy, their capacity for environmental policy is not strong, there is no coordination between departments or a meaningful strategy for energy policy. Specifically about offshore wind, targets have been set, but the promotion mechanisms being used have been inefficient and the Energy Minister has been clear on asserting that the industry was responsible for achieving those targets, and should not expect help from the government. Offshore wind is at a crossroads, government help is crucial and without it, the industry may be relegated to expensive and slow development, if any. However, if the government could be convinced to play a more active role in the development of offshore wind, they might want to signal political commitment and do long term planning, ease planning permission bureaucracy and constraints, perhaps choose different promotion mechanisms or at the least adjust the existing ones to include other owners, for instance, fund more RD&D and owners/developers granted building sites.

UddannelserTekSam - miljøplanlægning, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Bachelor el. kandidat
Udgivelsesdato1 jun. 2006
VejledereJesper Holm & Jan Andersen


  • renewable energy
  • UK
  • offshore wind energy
  • Britain