Firm still committed to wind energy

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The company behind a number of planned wind farms off the east coast insists it is still committed to renewable energy despite a decision to review costs.Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, will apply for planning permission for its Docking Shoal and Race Bank farms off the coast of Wells next month and already has permission for other sites close to Skegness.

But last week it said rising construction bills and the credit crunch meant it would “revisit all [its] numbers” before giving the projects the go ahead.

Andrew Turpin, spokesman for Centrica, said: “The cost of building offshore wind farms has risen pretty sharply over the past year or so because of rising steel costs and the fact that there are not many manufacturers of turbines and other components around. Prices are very high because demand is high.”

Mr Turpin said the fact that the company was pressing ahead with its planning applications showed it was still committed to the development but had to be sure they were economically viable.

He said: “The intention is to build them but what we are trying to do is make sure we are getting the best deal we can with all the suppliers.”

The government has outlined a demanding programme for building wind farms and Centrica hopes that will encourage more companies to begin manufacturing the parts needed – bringing prices down in the future.

Mr Turpin said: “There is a tough renewable target to meet so we would expect that more manufacturers would enter into this area. It is difficult to be sure now what costs will be in the future.”

Centrica’s assurances come as StatoilHydro, the company behind the proposed construction of about 88 turbines off the coast of Sheringham, said it was still hopeful its project would go ahead.

On Monday the EDP reported that the Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farm was under threat while developers seek a new partner.

StatoilHydro, now sole owners of the project’s development company Scira after buying out its partner Evelop, is looking for an investor to help “spread the risk”.

A spokesman admitted the credit crunch was proving an obstacle to that and it had not yet decided whether to go it alone if a new partner was not found.

Kai Nielsen, from StatoilHydro, said: “We have not made such a decision. What we are saying is that it is a good project and we feel confident we will find a partner. The work on the project is progressing. We will make a decision in the first part of next year.”

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