The big interview: Duncan Clark, UK region manager at Ørsted
The Denmark-based company – formerly known as Dong Energy – also says it is the market leader in the UK offshore wind market, with around 1,000 such turbines installed in UK waters producing enough energy. green energy to power more than four million UK homes a year. .
The company, which also says it was once one of Europe’s most coal-intensive energy companies, in January announced its intention to bid as part of ScotWind’s lease cycle. “We are a global company, operating in Europe, Asia and the Americas, and the opportunity in Scotland is an opportunity that we are particularly passionate about,” said Mr. Clark at the time.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and your current role at Ørsted …
As head of the UK region of Ørsted, I lead the activities of the company in the UK, which is home to the largest offshore wind farms in the world. I am proud to say that we have over three decades of experience building these complex engineering feats and currently have 12 offshore projects operating in these waters that we own or partially own, a wind farm under construction. and three more in our development pipeline.
I took my current position in December 2019, but joined Ørsted in 2012 as Program Director in Offshore Wind and was responsible for the delivery of Westermost Rough and Hornsea One, a record-breaking project that has paved the way for the next generation of offshore wind farms, each capable of powering more than one million homes. Prior to joining Ørsted, I spent 18 years in the energy industry, primarily in renewables and energy storage, holding leadership roles at Innogy, Npower and The Crown Estate.
The ScotWind rental cycle is a crucial milestone for the Scottish renewable energy industry, and in particular for Scotland’s booming offshore wind sector, which is expected to trigger billions of pounds of new investment later this decade.
ScotWind will be key to unlocking this resource and meeting Scotland’s climate change targets, as well as bringing long-term jobs and skills to communities across the country – both directly on the projects themselves and all along the broader supply chain.
Ørsted submitted bids for five projects: two wind-only floating bids as part of our joint venture partnership with BlueFloat Energy and Falck Renewables, and three more as single Ørsted. These solo projects include a mix of fixed and floating wind technologies.
We are the world leader in the development, construction and operation of offshore wind farms. By building and equipping our teams in Scotland, we will use our 30 years of experience to implement large-scale projects by 2030, in line with the Scottish Government’s target of 11 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind farm installed on this date.
ScotWind’s potential to generate carbon-free growth and prosperity cannot be underestimated. At Ørsted, we are ready to work in partnership with Scotland to make this potential a reality.
Much has been said about the energy transition and the trend towards net zero, but how realistic are the targets set by the Scottish and UK governments for net zero by 2045 and 2050?
Scotland has one of the most ambitious net zero targets in the world. As a company that has transformed its business from fossil fuels to renewable energy and is committed to creating a green energy-powered world, we applaud Scotland’s ambition and commitment.
The ScotWind 10 GW rental cycle plus the 11 GW target for offshore wind in Scotland by 2030 and the commitment to other rental cycles in Scotland, for example, are extremely important when it comes to it is about reaching a net zero by 2045.
Scotland has some fantastic companies that will support this industry. And we know this because we are already working with Scottish companies to deliver our offshore wind projects; not only in UK, but also in Taiwan, Germany and USA.
The Firth of Forth ‘net-zero hub’ is key to meeting Scotland’s climate goals, again.
One of the most important developments in the sector is the growing awareness that the oil and gas and the renewable energy industry must cooperate if we are to decarbonize our society and our economy.
This will be the case in particular for hydrogen: we see that there will be hubs that will supply themselves with hydrogen produced from natural gas with carbon capture and storage, and with hydrogen produced from offshore wind power, by sharing part of the infrastructure and pipelines. You can also see the conversion of existing pipelines to transport hydrogen produced offshore from offshore wind.
How crucial is the upcoming COP26 summit in Glasgow to meeting the global climate change goals and do you think anything successful / actionable will come out of it?
We know that energy production and consumption are currently responsible for 73% of global greenhouse gas emissions, so it is essential to immediately accelerate the transition to renewable means to combat climate change.
COP26 will be vital in this effort and we urge governments around the world to do their utmost to accelerate this transition. Renewable technologies are already available to us and are the most cost effective solution in most parts of the world.
If we can do it now, we still have a chance to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. The COP26 talks must be achieved not only through bold goals, but also through meaningful policies and milestones that drive progress. Ørsted’s transition from Dong Energy to a fully dedicated renewable energy company shows what happens when government adopts the right policy and companies respond.
What is the best thing that an individual / business can do to combat global warming?
It may sound overwhelming. My advice would be to start with short-term, practical actions and think about the incremental changes that can be made around your business.
For example, business leaders might consider their direct energy use and find out whether a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with a renewable energy project might work for their business.
PPAs cover a specific volume of green energy at a fixed price and ensure that energy taken from the grid can be traced back to a specific wind or solar farm that feeds the grid in an equivalent amount.
Besides climate change, the biggest challenge remains the Covid-19. How has the pandemic affected the business and how will it continue to shape operations?
The nature of our business, which relies on complex engineering far offshore, means that health and safety precautions have always been paramount. However, the Covid-19 pandemic means that we have also implemented continuous testing in our operations and maintenance bases and on our service operations vessels that service our projects.
What challenges are there in attracting and retaining the right people and the right skills in your industry?
Like many technical and engineering careers, one of the challenges is to ensure that we attract young people to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects in school and to consider careers in renewable energies.
I am very proud of the work we do with local colleges and community groups near our wind farms to try and raise the profile of Stem subjects.
It is also clear that over the next decades oil and gas production will decline in the North Sea. I am very interested in how we are supporting the transition of the highly skilled workforce in this industry that exists across Scotland and particularly in the North East to offshore wind.
We need to attract technicians, engineers, project managers, subsea experts and many other specialists in the industry, but the good news is that much of this expertise already exists, and the demand for skilled workers to quickly speed up offshore construction. will be huge.
When you look at the companies we already work with in marine services and construction, many of them also work in oil and gas. There is a huge opportunity here. If you look at our employees in the UK or Denmark, for example, there are many examples of former oil and gas workers who are now working in our industry.
How well do you see the business in a decade?
I think the biggest differences will be our use of floating wind power and the commercialization of hydrogen technology.
Floating offshore wind is an innovative technology with an exciting future in Scotland, which is in an excellent position to become a leader in this field. It will take time for float to decrease in cost, but our decades-long involvement in offshore wind development will help reduce risk and speed up the industry.
In a short time, the cost of new offshore fixed-bottom wind power fell rapidly, now far outstripping other energy technologies.
Renewable hydrogen will be a key technology in the decarbonisation of industry, transport and heat, all essential steps in the fight against climate change. Offshore wind is the perfect and abundant energy source for producing low-cost renewable hydrogen on a large scale, and we are delighted to ensure that Scotland can make a leading contribution to the development of the green hydrogen.
Glass half full / half empty some kind of person?
Glass half full! I cannot stress enough the threat of climate change, but with the right action I see many reasons to be positive.