UK offshore wind farms given £300 million boost

UNITED KINGDOM - The European Investment Bank (EIB) is considering offering £300 million (US$492 million) to fast track the connection of UK offshore wind farms to the country's national grid.

The news comes just a month after energy regulator Ofgem revealed a shortlist of 13 companies that will be allowed to bid for nine contracts to build and operate high-voltage transmission links with offshore wind farms. The combined value of these contracts is £1.15 billion (US$1.88 billion).

The £300 million EIB windfall will be available for six projects, which collectively will connect about 1.6 gigawatts of offshore generation.

"The European Investment Bank welcomes Ofgem's initiative in promoting this essential element of the UK's renewable energy infrastructure," said Simon Brooks, vice president of the European Investment Bank. "Electricity from offshore wind farms will make a key contribution to national power supply and help achieve 2020 emissions targets."

The issue of slow connection times to the grid, particularly with regard to wind farms, has already been noted by the UK government, which has promised to overhaul the process. Some wind farms, for instance, have been given connection dates years after they are scheduled to start operation.

Ofgem Chairman Lord Mogg added: "The EIB's decision to consider these projects for funding of over £300 million is an important step forward for delivering competitively priced connections for offshore wind farms. By adopting a competitive process for connections Ofgem E-Serve is endeavouring to keep the cost of connection to generators as low as possible. This brings benefits to consumers, who will ultimately fund the £15 billion (US$24.6 billion) required to connect the 33 gigawatts of offshore generation needed to help meet Britain's emission targets.

"Ofgem's recent review of the challenges Britain faces in securing energy supplies and achieving climate-change targets has shown that investment in offshore wind could play a vital role in helping Britain meet its climate change targets and in reducing its dependence on imported gas."

In welcoming the announcement, Minister of Energy Lord Hunt commented: "The EIB's support will be very welcome. Connecting offshore windfarms to the grid quickly and cost-effectively will be crucial to tackling climate change and securing our future energy supplies. This money would help projects currently under construction get their cables in the water and feeding into the grid quickly and cheaply."


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