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19 May 2010

UK offshore renewables could outstrip oil and gas industry's peak output

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Study claims UK offshore renewable energy could turn the country into a net exporter of energy once more

The first study to put a financial value on the UK's offshore renewable energy resource has concluded that the nascent sector could transform the country from a net energy importer to a net energy exporter by 2050.

The report, which was commissioned by a coalition of government and industry organisations known as the Offshore Valuation Group, argues that the creation of a North Sea supergrid would allow the UK to export energy generated by offshore wind farms and marine energy systems to the rest of Northern Europe.

The study sets out three different scenarios for the next 40 years, with the most ambitious course of action resulting in an average of 13.1GW of wind, wave or tidal energy being installed each year up to 2050.

It argues that such a rapid build out of renewable energy capacity would create profits of £24bn for the UK supply chain and create direct employment for around 340,000 people. It also predicts that the resulting wind and marine energy farms would produce energy equivalent to 2.6bn barrels of oil a year by 2050 - more than double the output from North Sea oil fields during the peak year of production.

"While ambitious, this scenario is not without precedent; between 1994 and 2004 the UK was a net producer of fossil fuel energy," says the study, entitled The Offshore Valuation.

In another highly ambitious, the report argues offshore renewables could generate electricity equivalent to one billion barrels of oil annually by 2050 through the installation of 169GW of capacity. That scenario would create 145,000 new jobs in the UK and provide the Treasury with £28bn in tax revenues annually, according to the report.

The scenarios set out in the report are hugely ambitious given that current plans for a new generation of offshore wind farms represent the largest build out of offshore wind farms anywhere in the world but would still only add around 30GW of new capacity by 2020.


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