Wind turbines in the Irish Sea, in waters near the town of Llandudno, in Wales.
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U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that he wanted the country to become the “world leader in low cost clean power generation.”
Speaking at the Conservative Party annual conference, which was delivered virtually, Johnson stressed the importance of renewable energy sources, especially offshore wind.
“We believe that in ten years’ time, offshore wind will be powering every home in the country, with our target rising from 30 gigawatts to 40 gigawatts,” he said.
“You heard me right: your kettle, your washing machine, your cooker, your heating, your plug-in electric vehicle, the whole lot of them, will get their juice cleanly and without guilt from the breezes that blow around these islands,” he added.
The pledge to increase offshore wind capacity was included in the Conservative Party’s manifesto for the 2019 general election.
Johnson said he remembered how some people used to sneer at wind power 20 years ago, in an apparent reference to himself, given he had once claimed wind farms couldn’t “pull the skin off a rice pudding.” His comments criticizing the effectiveness of wind power were made in 2013, however.
The prime minister said £160 million ($207.46 million) would be invested in ports and factories to manufacture what he described as the “next generation of turbines” — a move he later claimed would generate 60,000 jobs — and also acknowledged the role floating offshore wind could play.
“As Saudi Arabia is to oil, the U.K. is to wind — a place of almost limitless resource but, in the case of wind, without the carbon emissions, without the damage to the environment,” he said.
According to figures from industry body RenewableUK, the U.K.’s operational offshore wind capacity stands at a little over 10.4 gigawatts. The U.K. is already home to a number of large offshore wind farms. These include Hornsea One, in waters off Yorkshire, England, which has a capacity of 1.2 gigawatts.
In response to Johnson’s remarks, Hugh McNeal, RenewableUK’s chief executive, said the government had “raised the ambition for offshore wind and renewables, and our industry is ready to meet the challenge.”
“A green recovery with renewables at its heart will be good for consumers and jobs, as well as helping to meet our 2050 net zero emissions target,” he added.
Wind power plan ‘still falls far short’
The pledge to ramp up offshore wind capacity was met with measured optimism from environmental organizations. Mike Childs, who is head of policy at Friends of the Earth, said Johnson’s “U-turn” on wind showed “the renewables argument has clearly been won.”
“Investment in off-shore wind is certainly critical for powering a cleaner, fairer future, but Boris Johnson mustn’t ignore the huge contribution onshore wind could make too,” he added, before going on to call for planning restrictions on onshore wind to be “urgently” reversed.
“We also need a comprehensive nationwide energy efficiency programme to create jobs, cut fuel bills, prevent people shivering in heat-leaking homes and help face down the climate emergency,” he said.
In a tweet reacting to the news Jonathan Bartley, who is co-leader of the Green Party, said it was “good to see the Prime Minister’s conversion” but noted that more detail was needed on how things would be funded. “It still falls far short of what is urgently needed and what could be achieved,” he added.