BP signs ‘renewables rock star’, France’s floating wind revolution and Vineyard bears $2.3bn fruit

Oil & gas supermajor BP this week hailed a powerful boost to the credibility of its huge green power programme when it signed “renewables rock star” Anja-Isabel Dotzenrath to lead its low carbon energy operation.

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Dotzenrath, who stepped down as CEO of Germany’s RWE Renewables in August, was said to be the “right person at the right time” by BP chief Bernard Looney, as both gave exclusive interviews to Recharge on what is arguably the highest-profile crossover yet from the utility sector to a transitioning oil & gas giant.

Looney told Recharge that Dotzenrath’s arrival at the company in March would put paid to any questions over the delivery track record in renewables among BP’s senior team, pointing to her long experience at the top of sector pioneers such as RWE and E.ON.

Dotzenrath herself said BP’s level of ambition – including a net 50GW of renewables development by 2030 – and global scale offers a unique opportunity to shape the energy transition, making joining the UK-based group “an easy choice”.

Floating wind power strode forward in its relentless march to the renewables big-time this week when France unveiled the 10 pre-selected bidders for its landmark 250MW tender off Brittany – the first such process in the world solely dedicated to fast-emerging sector.

The list is a roll-call of international heavyweights from both the power and oil & gas sectors, underlining the massive interest in floating wind from the biggest players in energy.

Like France, the UK is determined to take a lead role in the floating offshore revolution, and a study by the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult put the scale of the British opportunity at a staggering £44bn ($61bn) in gross value added, if its government backs the sector with appropriate policies.

What form those policies should take was the subject of intense debate at the Floating Offshore Wind 2021 event in Scotland – the UK nation with the loftiest ambitions in the sector, as demonstrated by plans by Ocean Winds and Aker for a 6GW megaproject in Scottish waters.

Industry leaders from the likes of Shell queued up to urge the UK to raise its 1GW 2030 floating goal, a target they said is already way out of kilter with the level of expansion needed, while two of the highest-profile executives in offshore wind – Stephen Bull of Aker Solutions and Orsted’s Benj Sykes – said Britain needs a “floating wind tsar” and a new ‘sector deal’ attuned to its needs to capitalise on the potential.

Beyond Europe, the prospects for Californian offshore wind – where floating is set to dominate – advanced when the state legislature passed a bill that requires officials to establish a “strategic plan” for building an industry at scale.

And not content with taking the sector into the deeps, floating is well placed to take a healthy slice of development at depths closer to those reserved for fixed-foundation projects, found an Aegir Insights study of ‘shallow water’ floating wind.

US offshore wind passed another historic milestone when pioneering commercial array Vineyard Wind 1 reached financial close after a consortium of nine US and international banks raised $2.3bn of senior debt to finance the construction of the 800MW project.

The financing propelled Vineyard 1 further towards planned start of power production in 2023, and came despite a new legal challenge from a fisheries group over the project’s consenting.

Vineyard Wind – the 50-50 joint venture between Avangrid Renewables and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners developing the project – isn’t resting on its laurels. Just a day later it handed in bids to build another 2GW off Massachusetts, adding to the tailwind gathering pace in the US Atlantic where the Biden administration was to see 30GW built by 2030.

This post appeared first on Recharge News.

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