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UK ranked among top five destinations for renewable energy projects

The UK has risen to fifth place in an influential quarterly report which measures the attractiveness of countries as a destination for renewable energy projects.01 Mar 2012

In its latest Country Attractiveness Indices report (36-page / 4.4MB PDF) (CAI), global accountancy firm Ernst and Young said that annual growth in UK wind farms was set to double between 2015 and 2016. The report highlighted projects in Scotland, including the announcement of the world's largest wind farm to be built off the coast of Caithness, and relatively consistent levels of Government subsidy.

There had also been a strong performance in the solar sector, with 762MW capacity installed to take advantage of the current feed-in tariff (FiT) programme before subsidies fall from April.

The CAI said that there had been "record levels" of investment in clean energy projects in 2011. However the outlook from 2012 was "far less certain", it said, particularly in developed markets. Increasing financial constraints, especially within the eurozone, were affecting investment, it said, resulting in emerging markets taking higher positions within its league table.

"Capital scarcity and increased competition from Asia will continue to put pressure on developed markets for the foreseeable future," it said.

China, the US, Germany and India held the top four positions in the CAI chart, with Italy falling to the UK's previous position at number six as a result of cuts to FiTs and other support mechanisms. Spain, which announced earlier this month that it was temporarily suspending all renewables incentives, had dropped out of the top ten.

Renewable energy expert Nick Shenken with Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind, said that the CAI was "good news at a time when UK government policy - particularly for wind - has been openly questioned by its own back bench".

"That movement was in no short measure due to the offshore wind market – the EIB finance to Vattenfall for Thanet coupled with projects such as that being promoted by Moray Offshore Renewables were given specific mention," he said.

Swedish power company Vattenfall acquired the Thanet Offshore Wind Farm project, off the coast of Kent, in November 2008. With more than 100 wind turbines with a total capacity of 300MW it is the largest operational offshore wind farm in the world, and the company was recently awarded a £150 million European Investment Bank (EIB) loan to support the extension of the project. Moray Offshore Renewables is a joint venture between EDP Renewables and SeaEnergy Renewables to develop offshore wind energy in the north of Scotland.

Shenken added, however, that it was "unsurprising" that the report had signalled a "note of caution around liquidity constraints potentially hampering project finance" in the coming year.

"That being the case, it would be surprising if there were not further fundraising activities through equity sales similar to those pursued by Dong at Gunfleet Sands in the UK and very recently at Borkum Riffgrund 1 in Germany," he added.

Earlier this week, the heads of some of the world's biggest wind companies told the Guardian newspaper that they were reviewing potential projects in the UK because of the Government's perceived lack of commitment to renewables. The paper cited an open letter to the Prime Minister, signed by more than 100 Conservative MPs, urging him to "dramatically cut" support for wind turbine generation as well as uncertainty regarding future subsidies for different technologies.

The Government has proposed a 10% cut to the financial support available to onshore wind generation projects as part of its review of renewables obligation certificates (ROCs); however, financial support for electricity generated through wave and tidal stream technologies will be more than doubled.

It is also asking for views on reducing its various FiTs schemes, which provide financial incentives to businesses that generate their own electricity from renewable sources.

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