Wind energy giant issues call to Mersey firms

Global wind farm developer and operator RWE Renewables has told Liverpool city region businesses it will need more suppliers for its £15bn UK expansion plan.

David Terry, supply chain development manager at RWE Renewables UK, addressed an audience of maritime sector businesses at the November monthly Face-2-Face event held in Birkenhead by Mersey Maritime.

Between now and 2030 the International business will be investing over £50bn to expand its green generation capacity including new onshore and offshore wind farms across the world by 2030. In the UK alone, RWE has ambitions to invest up to £15bn of that investment, significantly increasing the country’s current 10GW of capacity.

Of particular interest to Liverpool city region suppliers is the new Awel y Môr windfarm off the North Wales coast. This will comprise up to 50 turbines to generate in excess of 500MW of electricity – enough to power 500,000 homes.

It will be an extension to the existing Gwynt y Môr wind farm which has a generating capacity of 576MW. Awel y Môr secured Government consent in September 2023 and RWE hopes it can be operational by 2028.

David said he was developing a supply chain plan for Awel y Môr and other planned UK projects. He told the Mersey Maritime event: “The UK is a very significant market for us. We will need both tier 1 suppliers and local suppliers.”

Awel y Môr is a joint venture project that was first conceived in 2018. RWE is providing 60% of the funding with Stadtwerke München and Siemens Financial Services, the financing arm of Siemens, providing the rest.

However, David warned that it was critical for Awel y Môr, and other UK wind farms, that the Government showed greater willingness to support projects more than they have in recent times.

Government incentivises onshore and offshore wind developers through what are called contracts for difference (CfDs). CfDs provide developers of projects with high upfront costs and long lifetimes with direct protection from volatile wholesale energy prices.

However, the latest UK auction earlier this year saw no bids from wind farm developers. They claimed the prices offered by the Government were too low to make new development a viable proposition.

Global turmoil caused mainly by the Russian invasion of Ukraine had caused economic volatility. Consequently, the cost of building wind farms has risen significantly. The sector now says the CfDs being offered by the Government need to reflect that.

“We need to see a better price offered. We need more of a commitment from the Government,” said David.

He added the growth of the wind sector offered a golden opportunity for the UK to create a new generation of skilled engineers. All its UK engineers undergo training at a college in North Wales. He explained: “We need to develop a proper skills base.”

RWE’s supply chain plan aims to cut across political boundaries and engage with potential suppliers across the UK. David said RWE was also on a mission to decarbonise the supply chain and encourage the use of low carbon technology among suppliers.

He also talked about the development of floating wind turbines. These would typically be larger capacity than the fixed turbines and be located further out to sea where winds are consistently higher.

“We need to invest in our ports so we have the capacity to build new wind farms,” he said. “Ports are a key building block and this is a big commercial opportunity for the UK.”

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