Good Morning. As I stated earlier, my name is Fiona Gilmore and I am speaking today on behalf of Suffolk Energy Action Solutions (or SEAS for short).
We wish to call for a delay to the DCO Examination process and to disagree with the Applicant’s interpretation of the BEIS Review Terms of Reference. There are compelling reasons to press the PAUSE button on this DCO Examination process, NOW. It is not enough to have ONE eye on the BEIS Review. New evidence has come to light. It is in the interests of this country as a whole that the BEIS Review initial workstream takes place before the Examination.
Today, I’m first going to give a very brief introduction to our campaign, who we speak on behalf of and what our proposal is. Second, I will address the BEIS terms of reference and the reasons why the Applicant’s interpretation of those terms of reference is misconceived. Third and finally, I will set out further reasons why the DCO process should be delayed until the findings of the BEIS Review initial workstream are available.
Our campaign, Suffolk Energy Action Solutions (or SEAS for short), represents thousands of British people today. We are in favour of green energy in any format, but are equally opposed to any plans that are needlessly destructive of the environment, such as these plans.
We set up this campaign in order to complement other campaigns, such as SASES and SOS, but with an emphasis to call for a BEIS Review to find a better, alternative solution than the current ill-conceived plans.
During 2019, SEAS representatives hand delivered thousands of signed postcards and sent emails, to Andrea Leadsom, then Secretary of State for BEIS. Leadsom was on the point of calling for a Review in December 2019. Indeed, George Freeman, MP for mid-Norfolk, announced in the Press that this Review had been agreed. Ultimately, the announcement was delayed until 15 July 2020, because of a range of competing circumstances, the General Election, very real problems associated with Covid Pandemic, Brexit and who knows what else.
We propose a twenty-week delay, until March 2021, before this DCO Examination begins. This Examination may become irrelevant as a result of the initial findings from the BEIS Review, superseded by alternative better conceived proposals. By March 2021, if this Examination is still necessary, we may then be able to hold more easily physical Hearings at Snape Maltings giving local people a greater opportunity to speak.
The BEIS Review and Terms of Reference
The BEIS Review Terms of Reference provide that the Review will be split into two main workstreams, a medium-term and a long term workstream. Amongst other things, the medium-term workstream will seek (and I quote) “to identify and implement changes to the existing regime to facilitate coordination in the short-medium term”, (and I quote) “to explore early opportunities for coordination…considering regulatory flexibility to allow developers to test innovative approaches” and (and I quote further) “to focus primarily on projects expected to connect to the onshore network after 2025”.
The Government itself states: the BEIS Review Terms of Reference (and I quote) “focus on identifying tactical near-term actions that can be taken and early opportunities for coordination for projects in the short- to medium-term”.
Our interpretation of the Terms of Reference
It is the view of our campaign that EA1N and EA2 obviously come within the terms of reference within the BEIS Review. In particular, on Scottish Power’s own timeline the earliest anticipated start date for just the CONSTRUCTION of both projects is 2024 and 2025, respectively. It is therefore clear both are expected to connect to the onshore network after 2025 and come within the purview of the BEIS Review. In other words, when the Energy Minister announced this Review, he had in mind that (and I quote) the “FOCUS” of the review would be on projects such as EA1N and EA2.
I am now going to address:
The Applicant’s interpretation of the Terms of Reference
The Applicants do address the request to delay the DCO Examination to wait for the findings of the BEIS Review at paragraphs 15 to 23 of their Submissions of Oral Case dated 29 September 2020 and I would invite you to have that document in front of you.
At paragraph 16, the Applicants acknowledge that an update will be produced by the Review by the end of this year but go on to state: “it is understood this update will not provide conclusions for the medium-term workstream nor implement changes to the existing regime. No date is provided as to when the outputs of the review will be published or implemented”.
It is true and we acknowledge that no specific date is provided in the Review’s Terms of Reference as to when the outputs of the Review will be published or implemented, but we deny that this advances the Applicants’ case. This completely ignores the fact that the Review’s Terms of Reference specify that it is to focus on projects intended to connect to the onshore network after 2025, such as EA1N and EA2. Of course, as one would expect, the precise date of when the outputs can be expected is not included in the Terms of Reference but it is clear, from the express terms of reference, that the Review is intended to have outputs which can affect projects intended to connect to the onshore network after 2025, such as EA1N and EA2.
Moreover, the Applicants state: “it is understood the update at the end of 2020 will not provide conclusions for the medium-term workstream” without providing any evidence for that “understanding”.
Our campaign invites you to ignore that statement given they have failed to support it. Conversely, we would invite you to draw the inference that the update at the end of this year may well provide recommendations for the medium-term work stream, given its focus is primarily on projects intended to connect to the onshore network after 2025.
At paragraph 21 the Applicants state that there would be (and I quote) “considerable time period… involved in developing” “a coordinated approach on offshore transmission” on the basis it would require regulatory change and public procurement and that this justifies the legitimate expectation that the Projects will be considered within the regulatory framework.
Once more this ignores the timescale contemplated by the Terms of Reference. In particular, it is inconsistent with the medium term work stream focusing on work projects intended to connect to the onshore network after 2025, such as EA1N and EA2 and that (and again I quote), the Review will “identify and implement changes to the existing regime to facilitate coordination in the short-medium term”, and “explore early opportunities for coordination…considering regulatory flexibility to allow developers to test innovative approaches”. We deny that the Applicants have the expectation that they say they do given the express wording of the Terms of Reference. Insofar as they do have that expectation, we deny that they hold it legitimately.
At paragraph 20, the Applicants quote from the National Grid’s report of 2015 [Integrated Offshore Transmission Project East], that “the project team does not believe it would be economic and efficient to progress with the development of an integrated design philosophy ...”. It is not clear why they quote from this report, but they appear to do so on the assumption the only alternative being suggested by campaigns such as ours to EA1N and EA2 is an offshore ring-main (or ORM for short).
The Applicants base their argument on outdated thinking. There are many reasons why ORMs are not the right answer here, which we happily agree with.
Independent consultant engineers, who specialise in integrated offshore transmission systems have discovered a much less complicated and fit-for purpose mid-term offshore solution. This beats an ORM in terms of cost, timescale, a much faster timescale, security, consistency and simplicity. An ingenious step change solution would avoid needless destruction of unspoilt countryside and habitats.
Germany and the Netherlands are but two countries leading the way in these new generation offshore schemes, motivated by the wish to do the right thing for the environment, as well as for climate change purposes and the economy. They recognise that everything is connected and their equivalents of National Grid are state-run without private sector interference. These countries have instigated Master Plans for offshore infrastructure, unlike the UK, which has adopted a fragmented approach to planning offshore transmission infrastructure.
I would add that the delay we are suggesting is actually quite short – only 20 weeks. ScottishPower can still deliver on its goal contrary to paragraph 22 of their submissions.
It would be irrational and unreasonable to permit the Examination to go forwards without waiting at least for the first update in February 2021.
To forego this opportunity to allow the findings to be presented by February 2021 with proposals for a short- to mid-term solution (2025 onwards) before starting the DCO Examination, would be a grave mistake and makes little sense. How can it be right that just as the Government announces a Review that the Country has been waiting for over a period of at least 10 years, which, according to its own Terms of Reference, is plainly intended to address projects such as EA1N and EA2, according to Scottish Power’s own timetable, that the Examination is permitted to continue so as likely to exclude all of the evidence, recommendations and policy and regulatory changes of the Review?
The Projects were conceived and planned at a time when an integrated, coordinated offshore strategy was felt to be expensive and complex. That time has gone, which is why the Government ordered the Review. It is clear the developers are trying to rush through the projects now because they are concerned the Review will cause them to have to make a step change.
The various institutions involved owe it to East Anglia to give enough time for the chance to make this a pilot test for the whole of the UK, providing a step-change to an integrated, cheaper offshore solution, where synergies and efficiencies are gained together with the avoidance of needless destruction to the countryside and ruination of medieval villages and hamlets.
We are confident that there is a cheaper and more innovative, intelligent solution, which can be implemented within the existing time constraints for this project.
To summarise: we would like you, therefore, to delay the Examination for twenty weeks in order that BEIS first has the opportunity to receive submissions from relevant strategic planners and engineering specialists, pioneers of new advances and intelligent solutions for a ‘greener’ delivery of offshore energy, and importantly, time for BEIS to share their conclusions.
The Secretary of State has granted a three month extension to the Examination.
During the recent development consent order hearings (DCO), the Suffolk Energy Action Solutions group (SEAS) brought to the attention of the inspectors the fact that Scottish Power Renewables (SPR) are using “gagging” clauses in their agreements with landowners involved in the planning process for their offshore wind farms, EA1N and EA2. These clauses offer financial incentives to individuals and groups to withdraw objections and/or desist from objecting to their plans. There can be no justification for making payments or imposing conditions which undermine a statutory planning inquiry conducted in accordance with public law principles.