“The cost of gas generation often sets the market price and that’s why we’re seeing such high prices in electricity at the moment,” David McMillan, a wind energy academic at University of Strathclyde, told the Big Issue. “Long term, wind generation will be delivered through a contract for difference (CfD) which guarantees a price for the megawatt hours they produce and hedges big price spikes.
“Normally, the price would be close to the standard market price. At the moment, it’s much lower. It’s somewhere around £45-50/MWh for wind CfD, whereas UK day ahead prices are currently around £500/MWh.”
Campaigners agreed Seagreen’s opening would bring cheaper energy. Ami McCarthy, political campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “Renewables are now around a whopping four times cheaper than oil and gas, and the North Sea is full of them.
“Rather than attempting to dig up every last drop of dirty expensive oil from the depleted seabed, the next prime minister should be investing in the future of the North Sea, which is renewables.”
In recent years, Britain has been ramping up its capacity for wind power, with offshore wind projects previously given the green light to increase capacity from 11GW to 40GW.
The government also released an energy strategy earlier this year, which aimed to reach an offshore wind capacity of 50 GW by 2030. However research by Energy Futures Lab at Imperial College, London, shows up to 108 GW of offshore wind capacity will be needed by 2035, more than twice the 2030 target and a tenfold increase on the UK’s current capacity.
Other campaigners pointed to the huge job opportunities new wind farms presented alongside the environmental benefits. Fabrice Leveque, climate and energy policy lead at WWF Scotland said: “This is yet another milestone in Scotland’s transition to a clean, renewables-led energy system.
“When fully complete not only will it help meet our climate change targets, but it will also lower our energy bills, with offshore wind significantly cheaper than the current electricity market which is being affected by sky-high gas prices. There are other economic benefits too, with hundreds of workers involved in its construction, along with those needed to run and maintain it over its 25-year life span.”
Other academics pointed to the energy independence wind power could provide the UK. Keith Bell, professor of electric power systems at the University of Strathclyde, told the Big Issue: “The more we can make use of the rich wind resources that we’ve got, the less we’ll need to burn gas and the less dependent we’ll be on imports.”
Policy experts called on whoever replaced Boris Johnson as prime minister to invest in more wind farms.
Jonny Marshall, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “The opening of the Seagreen wind farm will boost our renewable energy supply, and will mean cheaper bills for consumers.
“It is exactly the kind of project that the next Prime Minister will need to invest far more in if we’re to improve our energy security, meet our net zero ambitions, and avoid repeating the fossil-fuel based energy crisis that we’re currently experiencing.”