Great South West leads UK clean energy growth

8 GSW leads UK

Region’s unique offer of clean energy projects – 535 operational or in development – could generate 11% of the UK’s electricity capacity – boosting the local economy and energy security.

The Great South West of England is set to become one of the leading providers of low carbon energy in the UK by 2035, according to a major new report.

With Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Station, floating offshore renewables in the Celtic Sea, and an array of geothermal, hydrogen and other green fuels already deployed or in development, the Great South West – covering Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset and Somerset – is set to see a surge in clean energy, putting it at the forefront of Britain’s ambitions to become Net Zero by 2050.

The Clean Energy Powerhouse Prospectus has been developed by Regen, the independent centre of energy expertise, and published by the Great South West, the new pan-regional partnership operating alongside the Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine and Western Gateway, working to build the region’s economy and prosperity.

It reveals that with the expansion of large-scale energy projects, the region could achieve an 800 per cent increase in low carbon generation capacity, equivalent to 11 per cent of predicted UK generation capacity needs, by 2035. The Great South West has estimated this could lead to up to 175,000 jobs* and a £10bn GVA boost for the economy.

Karl Tucker, Chair of the Great South West, said: “You only have to look at the huge amount of activity underway to realise that the Great South West is becoming the UK’s clean energy powerhouse. From floating offshore wind to nuclear, and geothermal to hydrogen, our low carbon generation capability, combined with a well-established and skilled workforce, and internationally renowned expertise across businesses, universities and supporting organisations, is unique in the UK.

“It’s an incredibly exciting opportunity, and imperative that we deliver this contribution to meet the UK’s energy needs and work towards achieving Net Zero. Of course there are challenges that we must work with the Government and other partners to overcome. There is an absolute urgency to upgrade the National Grid to ensure this low carbon capacity can be realised and planning and licensing processes must be speeded up. Significant investment is also needed if the UK is to reap the benefits, improve its energy security and achieve its ambition of becoming a true Net Zero global leader.”

The prospectus reveals how the Great South West’s diversity of low carbon energy capacity is unmatched anywhere in the UK. It includes floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea, a new nuclear power station in Somerset, geothermal and heating solutions including the UK’s only operating geothermal plant at Eden Project, numerous hydrogen and green fuel production facilities, wave and tidal, onshore wind and solar, utility-scale heat and interconnectors across all four counties.

Selaine Saxby, MP for North Devon, is chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Celtic Sea, which meets to consider the prospectus at Westminster today (Tuesday July 18).

She said: “When I formed the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Celtic Sea it was to ensure that here in North Devon we share in the huge opportunities for the region in floating offshore wind. The Great South West can play a key role in helping to achieve the UK’s Net Zero ambitions and champion the unique position that we, as a region, are in to advance our energy security needs. 

“As the prospectus makes clear, offshore wind, nuclear and other low carbon energy sources, combined with our expertise and research facilities, means there is an incredible opportunity to create jobs, secure investment and make a significant contribution to transitioning to a low carbon economy.”

The report highlights key developments, including TwinHub, the first floating offshore wind project to secure a Contract for Difference from the Government. The 32 MW project will use the WaveHub site off Cornwall. Four 100 MW test and demonstration projects, capable of powering over 450,000 homes, are also in development, including Whitecross off the coast of North Devon.

Professor Judith Petts, is Vice-Chancellor of the University of Plymouth, and Chair of the Great South West’s Energy Programme Board.

She said: “The potential of the Great South West to deliver 11 per cent of the UK’s low carbon electricity capacity by 2035 is significant. Take-off of the floating offshore wind capacity in the Celtic Sea is imminent, driven by leading research and development and industry investment. The flagship Hinkley C project confirms the ability of the area to deliver at scale, while our abundant natural resources – geothermal, tidal, wave – can deliver locally to support self-sufficiency and be scaled-up to wider net zero advantage.”

Dr Stephen Wyatt, Director for Strategy and Emerging Technology at the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, said: “The development of floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea is critical to achieving the UK’s Net Zero obligations, and we welcome the Great South West Energy Prospectus which shines a light on this tremendous opportunity. We already have a strong presence in the region and are fully committed to collaborating with the array of science and technology-led businesses who will be the engine room as the Great South West evolves into a UK clean energy powerhouse.”

Hinkley Point C has acted as a catalyst for regional growth and development, employing 22,000 skilled workers and 3,700 specialist businesses across the UK, with a third of the workforce being locally based. Alongside Hinkley and floating offshore wind, the scale of low carbon energy activity across the Great South West is unprecedented, with 360 operational projects and another 175 in development.

They include the United Downs Deep Geothermal Power Project in Cornwall, hydrogen clusters like Langage Green Hydrogen, part of the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport, leading research and innovation centres like the University of Plymouth’s Supergen Offshore Renewable Energy Hub, the Cornwall Floating Offshore Wind Accelerator, the South West Aquaculture Network and Aquaculture Innovation Centre in Dorset, the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, port and maritime clusters including the Clean Maritime Innovation Centre, Centre for Future Clean Mobility and Hydrogen Boat Centre.

The Great South West is now liaising with businesses and investors on the opportunities, and urging Ministers and MPs to act on the need for network investment and the take up of the UK Electricity Network Commissioner’s recent recommendations. That focus includes reforming the connections process to fast-track critical low carbon projects, streamlining planning and licensing, accelerating the Celtic Sea leasing process, and boosting investment through dedicated Contract for Differences for floating offshore wind, tidal stream and geothermal, and support for investment cluster funding.

Industry and investor events will be happening throughout 2023 and into 2024.