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Technological Innovations and Climate Change: Offshore Wind


The Environmental Audit Committee is launching an overarching inquiry looking at technological innovations which could contribute to tackling climate change. Each part of the inquiry will look at a specific technology currently in use or in development and consider its potential and how Government policy can facilitate the UK making the best and most cost-effective use of that technology. 

This inquiry will be an opportunity to highlight UK-based examples of innovation and excellence, and the Committee is particularly keen to hear from those at the cutting edge of each sector. 

Article 10 of the Paris Agreement recognises the central role of innovation in achieving mitigation and adaptation goals. The UK has taken a lead role in the development and deployment of some low-carbon technologies, and has supported international collaboration on a number of others. However technological progress is far from certain – in its 2019 report on Net Zero the Committee on Climate change identified several technologies which had either not performed as well as had been envisaged or had not reduced in cost as expected when it conducted its initial modelling in 2008.

Looking to the future, it is difficult to predict how individual technologies will reduce in cost or improve in efficacy, but alongside other changes technological innovation will be crucial to the UK achieving its emissions reduction goals. 

Offshore wind power 

The first session of this inquiry will look at offshore wind power. The UK has been a leader in the sector and has the largest market in the world. The Government’s sector deal announced in March 2019 aims to raise the productivity and competitiveness of UK companies to ensure the UK continues to play a leading role in the sector. This session will consider the opportunities to maximise continued uptake and effectiveness of this technology, and the challenges faced by the industry in delivering greater capacity. 

Wind farms are being sited at greater water depths, presenting new and more complex engineering challenges. Similarly, advances in blade technology have implications for both the size and materials design of turbines and towers. There is also scope for optimising infrastructure to provide a more efficient method of maximising generation, reducing losses and improving the operational control of offshore wind farm networks.

As offshore capacity expands there is both the potential for creating new jobs as well as an increased impact on coastal communities where transmission cables come on shore to supply the grid, although offshore hubs and other innovations could address concerns in those communities. Windfarms and landing sites also have an impact on the local environment, particularly on birds, fish and other benthic species, although impacts on some species can be positive as well as negative.