New research published today by RenewableUK shows that more than ten times as much UK offshore wind capacity was installed in 2022 than was built onshore. The industry is calling for planning reforms to implemented as soon as possible to enable more projects to go ahead onshore and offshore - even though a record amount of new offshore capacity went live last year - to meet our energy security and climate change goals.
The analysis by our EnergyPulse data analysts reveals that a total of 3,511MW of new wind capacity was added last year – enough to power more than 3.4 million UK homes a year.
Three major offshore wind projects went fully operational in 2022, adding 3,193 megawatts (MW) of new capacity, powering more than 3.2 million homes. This is a record annual high, smashing the previous record of 2,125MW set in 2018, and a significant increase on 2021, when just one offshore project (48MW) was fully commissioned.
Ten new onshore wind projects were installed in 2022, adding 318MW and powering a further 209,000 homes. Six of the new projects were built in Scotland, providing nearly all the new capacity (314MW). One went fully operational in Wales (2.5MW), one project in England (two turbines, 1MW in total) and two in Northern Ireland (0.5MW). This represents less new UK onshore capacity than was built in 2021, when 370MW was added (295MW in Scotland, 75MW in Northern Ireland and none in England or Wales), although deployment increased in Scotland last year compared to the year before.
The industry is warning that the planning system is a major barrier to speeding up the UK’s shift away from fossil fuels and imported energy. The Government’s British Energy Security Strategy set out a new target to decide on offshore planning applications in 12 months, as some projects currently take up to 4 years under the current rules. For onshore wind, the UK Government announced a consultation in December on proposed changes to planning rules in England which could enable more new capacity to be developed in areas where there is public support. Planning reforms are also underway in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
RenewableUK’s Chief Executive Dan McGrail said: “The latest figures show we made terrific progress in installing a record amount of new offshore wind capacity last year. However, we still need to ensure that the glacial pace of the consenting process is stepped up significantly to stay on track for the quadrupling of offshore capacity that the Government wants to see by 2030 as a key step in strengthening the UK’s energy security.
“In all parts of the UK, including Scotland, investors are highlighting the planning system as a major block on developing onshore new wind farms. Onshore wind is one of our cheapest sources of new power and the Government’s own polling shows that four-fifths of the public support it. But outdated planning rules and lack of resources in planning authorities mean progress and investment are being held back.
“Just two small turbines went operational in England in 2022, so we need to see substantial changes to enable consumers and local communities to benefit fully from the benefits that this popular low-cost technology offers. That means changing the rules which skew the planning system unfairly against onshore wind in England, putting it back on a level playing field so that it can compete fairly against other clean technologies”.