From: Reuters
Published February 21, 2008 09:36 AM

Centrica mulls huge offshore windfarms investment

By Pete Harrison

LONDON (Reuters) - British Gas parent company Centrica said on Thursday it was evaluating a potential multi-billion pound increase in investment in renewable energy, largely targeted at offshore turbines.

The move would help Britain achieve ambitious goals of producing 33 gigawatts of electricity from offshore wind by 2020, enough to power every UK home, at an overall cost of around 70 billion pounds ($136 billion).

Centrica Chief Executive Sam Laidlaw told reporters that as Britain's largest residential electricity supplier, with around 23 percent of the market, the company had an "important role to play."

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"It is going to require heavy investment," he added.

Centrica already plans to build around 1.5 gigawatts of renewable generation with partners at a cost of around 3 billion pounds.

It has one offshore windfarm already running at Barrow, northwest England.

It is also currently building two 90 megawatt windfarms at Lynn and Inner Dowsing 5 km off Britain's east coast, which together are expected to provide enough power for more than 130,000 homes. Three other offshore windfarms are awaiting planning approval.

The costs of investing in offshore wind are rising rapidly amid strong global demand and a shortage of skilled labor, turbines and other components.

The European Commission has told Britain to get 15 percent of its energy from renewable resources like wind and waves by 2020, up from around 2 percent today.

Most of the burden will fall upon electricity companies, which envisage a target of between 35 and 40 percent from renewables.

"Our emphasis will be on wind, gas and new nuclear -- a balance of the three," said Laidlaw.

(Editing by Mike Elliott, Paul Bolding)

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