EDF's prospective new nuke at Sizewell is not the only vast energy scheme threatening Suffolk's rural amenities and running laughable “consultation” exercises (Eyes passim). Only two miles away, Scottish Power Renewables (SPR) is right up there with EDF - on both counts.
SPR's “East Anglia Hub” would be a 3 gigawatt offshore windfarm complex in the North Sea. Designed to produce sustainable electricity out of sight over the horizon, the plan has broad support - in principle. However, the onshore ramifications are contentious: the location for landfall of the incoming power cables, the digging of a six-mile “cable corridor”, and two large new substations. These works would cut across a stretch of Heritage Coast, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a Special Protection Area and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Oddly, SPR is not intending to do the obvious and amalgamate its workings with those of EDF's Sizewell C project next door, with its large existing site and grid connection. (Maybe SPR is as sceptical about Sizewell's prospects as Old Sparky.)
Local residents want and could ordinarily expect a programme of public meetings - but Covid-19 has scuppered that. SPR has argued instead for online meetings to keep the process moving. The government endorses the “virtual” approach, conditional upon it being made to work for all concerned.
Many locals complain they are not comfortable with the technology involved. But the Planning Inspectorate facilitated training sessions; people determinedly made the effort; and everything seemed set for an online consultation last month. Some 100 local participants managed to deal with the new-fangled systems - but not, alas, the SPR team of legal and professional advisers, who couldn't make their technology work and were reduced to joining the three-hour meeting by phone. Compounding the irony, the invisible SPR lawyers then rehearsed at length their arguments for conducting matters virtually!
Not much more confidence-inspiring, then, than EDF's ill-fated “Sizewell consultation bus” that, too big for local car parks, became ignominiously stuck on the verge beside a lay-by (Eye 1529). Oh, and SPR still hasn't satisfied locals on why it can't use existing sites and grid facilities for its new project.
Looking at the existing regimes, questions have arisen regarding the suitability of the current regulatory regime for offshore wind. It is currently heavily concentrated on competitiveness, which is considered beneficial for consumers. That means that currently there is no sharing of infrastructure, and each wind farm has an individual connection to transmit the power that it generates. There are three material concerns with this: it is financially inefficient; it has a negative environmental impact; it may have a negative impact on coastal communities where connections make landfall.
Eight Offshore Wind Energy Projects are widely believed to be planned to connect to the National Grid at Friston (this does not include future windfarm projects as a result of the seabed leases awarded by the Crown Estate in relation to the Round 4 process). Cumulative impact means eight substations and interconnectors constructed sequentially or consecutively. Plus, the addition of a nuclear power station, one of the largest in the world. This will be the largest complex of energy infrastructure in the U.K. situated in one of the most fragile ecosystems in the U.K. These are judged to be ill-conceived plans where the process of choosing the site for the mega infrastructure hub is shown to be flawed. There are a number of better alternative brownfield sites for this designated vast complex.