“I think one is talking about late this year/early next before we start seeing signs of recovery and therefore growth,” Gray said.
“Meanwhile, everyone has battened down the hatches in the SNS, both gas and wind.
“While the energy industry is trying to remain positive, everyone needs to have a Plan B in the event of the crisis.”
“The government needs to ensure that offshore wind and gas-fired power generation are accorded priority,” Gray warned.
“This is going to be essential to the recovery of UK PLC from the Covid-19 crisis.”
“One thing that was being discussed was free ports/free airports and the opportunity to use them to enable foreign workers to work offshore on gas platforms and wind farms without technically crossing the border into the UK.”
“The sheer scale of what’s now happening means that we have got to have a more holistic approach,” he says.
“We will see much more robust and resilient connectivity between the UK and the continent to enable the transportation of larger quantities of energy.”
“We need to be looking towards encouraging a greater level of co-ordination,” he said.
“This is where the Offshore Wind Energy Council comes in. They’re doing quite a lot in terms of looking at legislation to be able to allow a more joined-up approach.
“We need to look around and identify what is best practice in other countries around the North Sea, what business models seem to achieve the best outcomes and from there work to try to reflect those here.”
“We’ve been working closely on the SNS rejuvenation programme with the Oil and Gas Authority for several years,” said Gray.
“All SNS operators have become very engaged and some real progress has been made.”
“There was the beginning of renewed interest in tight gas in the SNS,” said Gray.
“Until there is an improvement in gas prices, let alone the other issues, I cannot see that progressing.”
“We’re in the interesting situation where we have the government regulator Ofgem telling the companies that distribute gas not to invest, while, at the same time, another government regulator, the OGA, is telling gas producers to maximise economic recovery of the resource,” Gray said.
“Maybe the key to breaking this one will be hydrogen. Domestic appliances and industrial applications can run on a blend of gas with 20% hydrogen.
“Therefore, I see a massive opportunity here to look at hydrogen production and inject that into the National Grid network through Bacton.
“Of course, there will still be offshore wind developments but, at least as an interim measure, why not prolong the life of the SNS and diversify output by producing hydrogen for blending into the gas grid?
“I think there are a lot of opportunities for us to pursue, once we all get past the current crisis.”
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.