Documents to download

Key points in the POSTnote include:

  • Wind power has grown rapidly in the past 10 years. In 2018, onshore and offshore turbines generated 17% of UK electricity. Wind is a key part of UK greenhouse gas emissions reduction plans.
  • Increasing turbine size, cheaper finance, and more efficient construction and operations have reduced costs substantially.
  • The UK Government supports offshore wind with competitive subsidies, which have enabled cost reductions to date. Further support has been pledged in the 2019 Offshore Wind Sector Deal, and the sector is projected to continue growing.
  • New onshore projects do not receive the same government support and are subject to more complex planning requirements. Onshore wind is not expected to grow by much without changes in these policy areas.
  • Although wind power is a key component of UK climate change mitigation ambitions, poorly sited farms can have negative impacts on some species of birds and bats.

In 2018, onshore and offshore wind farms combined generated 17% of UK electricity. The UK has installed the largest offshore wind capacity in the world, in part aided by government subsidies which have helped to reduce costs. The UK Government has pledged further support as part of a joint government-industry programme, the Offshore Wind Sector Deal, announced in March 2019.

Cost reductions between 2015 and 2017 allowed developers to sell power from most new projects in 2017 at a price that was 50% lower than 2015 projects. The factors enabling this trend include improved turbine designs, new construction techniques, more efficient operations and increased power production. In particular, increases in turbine size and design standardisation have helped developers install new farms at lower cost.

New offshore wind projects are eligible to bid for a “Contract for Difference”, which provides generators with a guaranteed price for electricity sold (usually amounting to a subsidy). These and previous subsidy schemes have helped the sector become more efficient and competitive. However, no CfD funding or any other subsidy is available for new onshore wind projects. This, along with what many commentators perceive to be a restrictive planning regime, have led to the likely stalling of new onshore wind installations in the near future.


POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including

  • Ben Springhall, BEIS*
  • Rob Saunders, Innovate UK*
  • David Hytch, Innovate UK*
  • Gavin Smart, ORE Catapult
  • David Wallace, ORE Catapult
  • Colin Maciver, Crown Estate Scotland
  • Baroness Brown of Cambridge, House of Lords
  • Barnaby Wharton, RenewableUK
  • Benj Sykes, Ørsted 
  • Richard Crossick, Ørsted*
  • Rhodri James, Equinor
  • Torkel Sjoner, Equinor
  • Nicholas Harvey, National Grid
  • Michael McLaughlin, National Grid
  • Jan Matthiesen, Carbon Trust
  • Dr Bruce Hall, ONYX InSight
  • Dr Evgenia Golysheva, ONYX InSight
  • Dr Robert Gross, Imperial College London*
  • Dr Matthew Hannon, University of Strathclyde*
  • Prof Simon Hogg, Durham University
  • Philippa Roddis, University of Leeds*
  • Dr David Reiner, University of Cambridge
  • Dr Karoline Rogge, University of Sussex
  • Dr Aly McCluskie, RSPB
  • Dr James Pearce-Higgins, BTO*
  • Dr Dan Van der Horst, University of Edinburgh
  • Prof Jun Liang, Cardiff University
  • Members of the POST Board*

* Denotes contributors who acted as external reviewers of the briefing

Documents to download

Related posts

  • Invasive non-native species

    Research suggests that the threat from invasive non-native species (INNS) is growing. Biological invasions by INNS harm native species and habitats and can have economic impacts. Biosecurity measures can be adopted to prevent the introduction and spread of INNS. This POSTnote summarises the drivers and impacts of INNS and the measures needed to meet national and international environmental targets.

    Invasive non-native species
  • Green steel

    Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the iron and steel industry make up 14% of industrial emissions in the UK. Decarbonisation of the steel industry is needed if the UK is to meet its target of net zero GHG emissions by 2050. This POSTnote outlines current steelmaking processes in the UK, the technologies and measures that can be used to reduce CO2 emissions, and the supporting infrastructure and policies that could enable a ‘green steel’ industry in the UK.

    Green steel