The Way Forward: An Integrated Offshore Grid
Current onshore plans are misguided, destructive and a security concern
SEAS along with many other groups (OFFSET MPs, RSPB etc.) reject current plans for East Anglia including Sea Link, Nautilus and LionLink, as not in the UK’s best interests, involving unnecessary onshore infrastructure via landfall sites on the Suffolk coast; we reject current plans not because we are NIMBYs, but because we advocate a better solution (see below) and East Anglia has not been afforded the same holistic design process as the rest of the country. They are based on outdated thinking and for the purpose of maximising profits for National Grid, without due consideration of the devastating cumulative impact on the countryside, as opposed to using a holistic network design that considers the whole of the UK. SEAS and our partner organisations will fight all the way through DCOs (Development Consent Orders), until better solutions are considered. The MPIs (multi-purpose interconnectors e.g. LionLink) are a tactical response to a flawed overall strategy, and do not answer the principal question of how best to get offshore wind energy to where it is needed, evaluating costs and benefits over the lifecycle of these projects. SuperHubs should be sited at brownfield sites closer to where power is needed (e.g. Isle of Grain or Bradwell), giving an economic, social & environmental impact that is regenerative not destructive, but National Grid is not encouraged to use these sites, so this needs to change immediately. For energy security reasons alone, it makes no sense to have 25-30% of the UK’s energy capacity transported via East Anglia.
A better solution exists now
A better solution involving an Offshore Grid using the North Sea Corridor to transport power closer to demand is realistic and viable now and this should have been designed by this stage. Other European countries, with similar 2030 and 2050 aims to ours, are moving ahead with their plans with confidence and it can be no coincidence that all of the leading players (Belgium, Holland, Germany and Denmark) have chosen modular offshore grids (MOGs) for their offshore spatial design strategies. Current delays offer a golden opportunity to pivot to a better and more efficient overall solution, with major energy capacity goals still achievable in the 2030-2032 window (we have had this confirmed by National Grid). Better solutions will receive greater buy-in from all parties including ourselves and ensure project delivery timelines can be achieved with greater certainty.
All plans face constraints / Our plan offers greater certainty and is better for the UK
We understand that a new plan would be constrained by contracts signed pre-2020, and would require negotiated compensation for developers, however it is important to remember that current plans also involve very considerable constraints, practical hurdles to delivery and risks to timetable/completion, and when evaluated in the round, our proposed plan is still the most deliverable and cost effective choice across the lifecycle of these projects. The greatly reduced negative cumulative impact on East Anglian countryside & communities, combined with levelling-up regeneration of brownfield sites should be seen as a positive opportunity for government.
The best way ahead has to meet the needs of all stakeholders
To play their part in meeting government goals, developers are calling for greater stability of regulatory environment, more clarity around government priorities and greater certainty of future long-term commercial arrangements. Current plans risk government goals as they don’t satisfy the needs of all stakeholders and any solution has to achieve this. A significant reason for where we find ourselves is a lack of active leadership and innovative thinking from National Grid Electricity System Operator (NGESO) it is instead being led by developers, however to be fair to them unlike their continental counterparts, their ability to act strategically and decisively is being compromised by their continued ownership by National Grid.
We have told the DESNZ Secretary of State Grant Shapps:
- The FSO (Future System Operator) needs to be created as early in 2023 as possible. In terms of 2030 targets, this is a pivotal 6-12months for developers so no time can be wasted. The new FSO would have the independence, expertise, resources and authority to give (along with Ofgem) regulatory stability, a strategic and holistic vision for network design for the whole UK, and clarity of future commercial contractual frameworks that the market is crying out for. This will in turn encourage developers to commit short and longer-term risk capital to these projects.
- In parallel with the HNDFUE process (Holistic Network Design Follow Up Exercise), East Anglia must be included in the overall holistic network design for the UK, with objective comparative analysis of current plans vs solutions involving brownfield sites, such as Isle of Grain and Bradwell. DESNZ (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero) needs to initiate this comparative assessment employing an independent team using HND criteria (we formally requested this on 9 September 2022 and are disappointed by the inaction since then). This assessment cannot be delegated to developers or others who have any conflict of interest.
- Whilst anticipatory investment ideas will be welcomed, for developers to commit, the FSO needs to design, in discussion with industry, longer term commercial financial arrangements across project lifecycles that include a fair sharing of the risks and rewards involved. The Offshore Coordination Support Scheme is a sticking plaster, where surgery is required.
- Government should consider its involvement in these strategic projects financially, whether through commitment of risk capital (e.g. Denmark are making their energy island happen through 51% government funding), or risk/revenue sharing, which would in the medium term be better for UK taxpayers and give greater stability of energy prices.
Fiona Gilmore, SEAS Founder confirms:
“Offshore platforms offer a more strategic solution and greater efficiencies, taking wind-farm electricity along the North Sea Corridor, first to offshore platforms where it can be pooled and then taken to Holland if required, avoiding huge negative impact to countryside onshore. Modular offshore grids are available now and being implemented by other European countries’ North Sea wind farms. Cost synergies are attractive and it is simply the will of Government that is now the barrier. This should be a win-win choice, good for government, tax-payers, the countryside, environment and levelling up.”
The Way Forward - Offshore Integration
The benefits of an integrated offshore transmission network far outweigh any benefit gained from continuing with a radial transmission system.
Crossed Wires: Maintaining public support for offshore wind farms, Policy Exchange, July 2021
The Offshore Co-ordination Phase 1 Final Report, NGESO, 16 December 2020, NGESO: “Adopting an integrated approach for all offshore projects to be delivered from 2025 has the potential to save consumers approximately £6 billion, or 18% in capital and operating expenditure between now and 2050”. Importantly, footnote 5 states, “This means applying an integrated approach to all offshore projects that have not yet received consent”.
Energy White Paper, Powering our Net Zero Future, December 2020
On 6 November 2020, in response to Mr Duncan Baker’s adjournment debate, the then Energy Minister, and now the newly appointed Secretary of State for the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Mr Kwarteng, made a very encouraging response and said, amongst other things:
- The offshore wind industry had evolved since 2015;
- There was a shift in the industry towards integration.
- Point to point transmission was recognised as having severe detrimental impacts onshore
- Technology was available to build an offshore integrated network
- Industry was engaged through the OTNR
- The argument for some form of offshore network has been won
In July 2020 the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy announced a major Review, the Offshore Transmission Network Review to address the barriers it presents to further significant development of offshore wind, with a view to achieving net zero.
The findings of the Integrated Offshore Transmission Project (East) 2015 Report concluded that an integrated offshore solution was in the interests of the UK as a whole.
It is illogical for further radial connections to the grid to be approved. The acutely detrimental impacts of radial connections must now be properly recognised in the Planning Balance.
What is a 'MOG'? Is it the answer?, SEAS, June 2020
In the Press
UK National Grid in talks to build an energy island in the North Sea, New Scientist, 11 October 2021
'Money can't compensate' for disruption caused by offshore wind, campaigners say, EADT July 2021
Prime Minister says coast could be the 'Riyadh of offshore wind' in PMQs, EasternDaily Press, 24 February 20021
U.K. Power Grid Moving Offshore to Support $27 Billion Wind Boom, Bloomberg, December 2020
Outdated regulation is slowing investment in onshore electricity grid, The Guardian, 1 November 2020
Offshore Wind in UK – Roadmap Required, Offshore Wind, October 26 2020
Change the way offshore wind farms connect and save billions - report finds, Eastern Daily Press, September 20 2020
Offshore wind blows hole in case for National Grid electricity role, The Times, October 8 2020
Modular Offshore Grid (MOG) - Can these ideas stop the countryside being dug up? Eastern Daily Press, June 27 2020
Norfolk MPs lobby Kwasi Kwarteng, Energy Minister at BEIS, SASES, 11 June 2020
Greenpeace suggests taking a more 'strategic approach' to offshore wind grid infrastructure, including increasing the number of grid connections to land shared between several projects, ReNEWS.BIZ, June 4 2020
Offshore Ring Main (ORM) feasibility study announced after Norfolk MPs met with Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng to discuss their concerns, Eastern Daily Press, June 2 2020
NORTH SEA INTEGRATION
North Sea EU countries step up plans to harness wind power, Financial Times, 20 May 2022
Plans for Offshore Wind-to-Green Hydrogen Energy Islands in Germany and Denmark Offshorewind.biz, 20 May 2022
Denmark maps seas for future offshore wind farms and energy islands, Recharge, June 8 2020
Denmark confirms massive wind plans for 'world's first energy islands' in North Sea and Baltic , Recharge May 20 2020
Denmark eyes 10GW offshore wind 'islands' in $45bn plan, Recharge, December 2019
North Seas ministers seek rules for meshed offshore wind grid, Recharge, December 4 2019
Growing chorus’ endorses multi-user transmission system, Riviera May 2020
Multi-user US offshore grid could 'save $1bn' ReNEWS.Biz, May 2020
Report Finds $1B in Grid Upgrade Savings, Other Benefits in Planned Transmission Approach to Offshore Wind, Yahoo Finance, May 2020
THE DESNZ REVIEW (OTNR) AND THE CHANGING POLICY ENVIRONMENT
- SEAS Additional Submission The Changing Policy Environment - The Government’s Environmental Policy and EA1N and EA2 Deadline 13, 5 July 2021
- SEAS Submission with regard to Regulation and the Offshore Transmission Network Review ‘Pathfinder’ Projects Deadline 13, 5 July 2021
- The Changing Policy Environment, SEAS Deadline 11 Submission Submission
- The Changing Policy Environment, SEAS Deadline 8 Submission
- SPR Timetable Changes and the BEIS Review, SEAS Deadline 5 Submission
- The National Grid ESO Offshore Coordination Phase 1 Final Report, SEAS Deadline 4 Submission
- The Energy White Paper, SEAS Deadline 4 Submission
- OFGEM and the BEIS Review, SEAS Deadline 3 Submission
- The BEIS Review, parliamentary debate and quintet of MPs, SEAS Deadline 2 Submission
- The BEIS Review, SEAS Procedural Deadline C Submission, September 2020
The Way Forward - A Split Decision For EAST ANGLIA ONE NORTH and EAST ANGLIA TWO
At the beginning of 2022 SEAS called upon the Secretary of State to:
1. Take a more strategic approach to the location of all onshore infrastructure for offshore wind so that onshore energy hubs are built on brownfield sites and our unspoilt and protected landscapes are saved.
2. To reconsider his decision on East Anglia One North and East Anglia Two and recommend a ‘split decision’ so that:
(i) The offshore turbines are recommended for consent.
(ii) The onshore infrastructure is rejected in favour of full consideration of better locations for this infrastructure where the adverse impacts are minimised at a brownfield or industrialised site.
Campaigners call for 'split decision' over Suffolk windfarm projects, East Anglian Daily Times, 19 July 2021
Campaign With Us
We are asking you to write, to the Secretary of State for the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ), see full details HERE