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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute


Benj Sykes (DONG Energy UK) – how offshore wind will help the UK keep the lights on

(4 March 2014)

On Thursday evening, Benj Sykes from DONG Energy’s UK Country Manager for Wind Power, will be part of a panel debate at Durham Energy Institute discussing whether the UK can keep the lights on. Here he explains part of his opening arguments around offshore wind, one of DONG Energy’s key business areas and how the technology will contribute to UK energy security in the future.

“The UK needs to rebuild its power system to replace retiring power plant capacity and meet increasing demand, and at the same time meet our commitments to reduce carbon emissions. There is no denying the fact that significant investment is needed when you look at the facts – 22 percent of our existing generation capacity will close by 2020 and that will rise to 55 percent by 2030.

"At the same time, electricity demand is set to rise by 13 percent in 2030 from today’s level.

"I'm confident we can ensure sufficient capacity is available during this transformation of the energy system - and we can do it with low carbon technologies. The one that DONG Energy is focussed on is offshore wind – we believe it will be an essential part of the mix that will keep the lights on in the UK.

"Firstly, the UK is in a great position when it comes to offshore wind. There’s a huge opportunity for scalability here: we have the best offshore wind resource in the EU and miles of coastline.

"Secondly, offshore wind works – amongst the renewables technologies ready to deploy today it has the highest yield and increasingly predictable production. We are getting better and better at forecasting the wind which means we know how much power we are likely to produce and that allows National Grid to balance supply and demand in the system. DONG Energy also has the experience and expertise of over 20 years of building wind farms.

"Thirdly, one of the biggest criticisms offshore wind faces is that it’s too expensive. That’s why DONG Energy is focussed on driving down the costs of offshore wind. Keeping the lights on whilst moving to low carbon supplies must be done in a way that minimises the costs to consumers.

"We are doing this through building a pipeline of projects and moving towards a standard model for an offshore wind farm. We are also working on newer technologies and better ways of operating and maintaining our wind farms.

For example, we have two 6 megawatt turbines that we are testing in the UK. We also recently announced a deal with Vestas to buy 8 megawatt machines. The bigger the turbines get, the fewer we need to install and the less it will cost.

"It’s our goal that offshore wind costs will have come down by 35 – 40 percent for projects getting the go-ahead in 2020. That puts us on a par with other low carbon generation. We also think that the support we have now will tail off as the technology matures by the middle of the next decade.

"I’m looking forward to the debate tomorrow. The other panellists will, I’m sure, have other arguments to make around energy efficiency, gas, coal and nuclear. I look forward to showing that the lights will stay on and that DONG Energy’s offshore wind farms will be part of doing that."

DONG Energy

DONG Energy (Danish Oil and Natural Gas) is one of the leading energy groups in northern Europe with around 6500 employees. Headquartered in Denmark their business is based on procuring, producing, distributing and trading in energy and related products in Northern Europe. DONG Energy is also one of the leading offshore wind farm developers in the world, with more than 20 years experience in the wind power industry. The UK is one of DONG’s primary markets for developing offshore wind and DONG invested £3 billion in UK renewable since 2005

Benj Sykes is on the Durham Energy Institute Advisory Board. DONG Energy also funds a Chair in Renewable Energy at the Durham Energy Institute (DEI), currently held by Janusz Bialek.