A plan officially launched in the UK last week shows once again that Cyprus could be carbon neutral and energy self-sufficient by 2030 if it put its mind to it, instead of still fantasising about the increasingly remote prospect of wealth from the Aphrodite undersea gas deposits.
The UK Crown Estate has invited tenders for an additional seven GigaWatts (7 GW) of offshore wind power capacity, expected to be delivered by 2030. The Crown Estate is the official body for licensing UK offshore activities and the invitation means the auction will definitely go ahead.
This vast amount is much more than Cyprus would need to meet its entire electricity consumption and the Cyprus government should immediately launch a similar tender offer which would enable the republic to finally stop using its oil guzzling power stations and disperse the carbon dioxide fumes they currently belch.
Nor should the state-owned Electricity Authority of Cyprus worry about having to subsidise the developers who win the bids. All the EAC has to do is accept the lowest bids and these are likely to be just a few cents per kilowatt hour, judging by recent auctions across Europe and other parts of the world.
Gone would be the cost of importing oil and gone would be the surcharges that every Cypriot electricity user has to pay because of the pollution caused by the existing generation methods.
In fact, in Cyprus, with its history of corruption, the greater fear might be that the country’s vested interests might secure the contracts for themselves. To avoid any such claims, all the EAC has to do it to announced an open auction and wait to find out who the lowest bidders are.
Major international oil companies were quick to sign up with the Cyprus government when gas was discovered under Cypriot waters, even if they are stalling now that international gas prices have plunged.
Given the strong sunlight beating down on Cyprus on more than half the days of the year, there is every prospect that major international wind power companies would snap up a chance to build wind farms off our sunkissed Mediterranean island.
Another advantage is that it would be hard for Turkey to interfere. Unlike the Aphrodite gas field, the wind farms would be only a few miles offshore, certainly to start with.
Storage of surplus intermittent wind farm electricity to be used at times of peak demand has always been possible and costs are falling sharply. In any case, the bidders for the Cyprus offshore wind power licences could be asked to include their storage proposals in their detailed bids.
The Cyprus government and the EAC should immediately start preparing a major offshore wind power auction and should be making a plan to adapt the electricity distribution grid to ensure it can handly the huge amounts of very cheap renewable electricity the wind farms will produce.
The UK Crown Estate says its Round 4 invitation to tender aims “to unlock new areas of seabed for the generation of low-carbon energy for millions more homes by 2030.”
“Round 4, our first leasing opportunity of this scale in a decade, creates the opportunity for at least 7GW of new projects in the waters around England and Wales, delivering a robust pipeline for low-cost offshore wind deployment.
“Invitation to Tender (ITT) Stage 1 for Round 4 is now open. In light of the current COVID-19 situation, we have extended the submission period, to afford bidders additional time to respond,” it said in a statement on 1st April.
“The four available seabed bidding areas for Round 4 are: Dogger Bank, Eastern Regions, South East, and Northern Wales & Irish Sea.”
The UK government itself has been backward in taking up some of the opportunities for renewable energy and other sustainable industries, as the need to battle climate change increases.
But the country has led the way in showing the potential of offshore wind power.
Britain reportedly has 9.3GW of offshore wind power capacity already operational, another 4.4GW currently under construction, and a further 20GW of projects in various stages of development (consented, in planning, or pre-planning).
There is also another 2.8GW of approved extensions projects, putting the UK on track to deliver over 30GW by 2030, according to reneweconomy.com.au (https://reneweconomy.com.au/uk-crown-estate-opens-invitations-for-massive-7gw-offshore-wind-tender-23062/)
The Crown Estate expects to award the first Round 4 licences as early as next year, and could grant leasing rights for up to 8.5GW of capacity if enough suitable bids come in.
Leasing rights are “to be awarded as early as 2021, leading to projects reaching completion and operation by the end of the decade (and) helping to meet UK energy needs for at least 60 years ahead,” according to the Crown Estate.
So come on Mr Anastasiades and your ministers, if the UK can do it, you can do it. Stop banging on about gas deposits which will never be be developed and get on with the developing Cyprus’ enormous renewable and cheap renewable energy potential.