Top-level Whitehall meeting over major energy projects for Suffolk

PUBLISHED: EADT 14:16 07 February 2020 | UPDATED: 14:16 07 February 2020   Richard Cromwell

Delegates from Suffolk, worried about the impact of a large number of major energy projects earmarked for a small part of the county, have taken their case to Whitehall.

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey led the delegation to Whitehall Picture: GREGG BROWN
Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey led the delegation to Whitehall Picture: GREGG BROWN

The group of representatives, led by Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, met the Energy Minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, to convey their concerns about the approvals process for strategic energy projects.

Six huge schemes have been put forward for East Suffolk - including the Sizewell C nuclear twin reactor, two offshore windfarms supported by a 30-acre electricity substation at Friston, and two international interconnectors for Eurolink and Nautilus.

In East Anglia as a whole there are plans for a dozen large ventures and concern over the cumulative impact on communities is growing.

The delegation, which included East Suffolk Council deputy leader Craig Rivett and county council environment cabinet member Richard Rout, [explained] the situation to the minister.

Campaigners say the substation will have a huge impact on Friston Picture: SASES
Campaigners say the substation will have a huge impact on Friston Picture: SASES

Dr Coffey said: "While we're all proud of the role that our coast plays in creating renewable and low carbon energy, the cumulative impact of the onshore infrastructure required to facilitate these projects is having a major impact on the countryside, heritage assets and the amenities of local residents - and the approvals process needs to be better co-ordinated to reflect that. Considering each project in isolation is not working and the planning approvals process needs more structure and engagement with the community. Something Ofgem seems to agree with in its recent report.

"I thank the minister for hearing our views and for the constructive discussions.

"I have promised to write to him in more detail on how I think the process can be reformed."

The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) Decarbonisation Action Plan suggests money could be saved and the environment better protected if there is more coordination around the infrastructure of projects.

Ofgem said: "We do not consider that individual radial offshore transmission links for this amount of offshore generation are likely to be economical, sensible or acceptable for consumers and local communities.

"[We] will explore whether a more coordinated offshore transmission system could reduce both financial and environmental costs.

"With more offshore windfarm projects planned, many of which are further from shore than those developed already, there is potential for efficiencies from greater coordination of offshore transmission infrastructure."

Both East Suffolk and Suffolk County councils support the principle of offshore wind, as it will help reduce carbon emissions and provide significant economic benefits to the county and the UK. However, they say this should not be achieved at any cost to Suffolk, its residents and its natural environment.

East Suffolk Council deputy leader Craig Rivett and county council environment cabinet member Richard Rout, who were part of the delegation, said: "We welcome the coordinated approach proposed in this report (from Ofgem). We hope that it means the Government, National Grid and Ofgem form a clear leadership role and strategy on all the energy projects affecting our coast.

"Considering each project in isolation, as is the case with current proposals which we have considerable concerns about, does not seem to make sense and increases the environmental impact and the impact on local communities.

"We believe we can minimise the harm to local communities through better regulation, coordination and planning, as we aim to deliver net zero carbon emissions."

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