Request for a 20 Week Delay to DCO Examination, Fiona Gilmore, SEAS, Preliminary Meetings

Introduction

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.

SEAS Campaign

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.

Our proposal

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 This Examination may become  irrelevant as a result of the initial findings from the BEIS Review,  superseded by alternative better conceived proposals.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.

Conclusion

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.

Thank you.



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