Therese Coffey speaks out: “my constituents have been shafted”.

Apr 18, 2024 | Consultations, Cumulative Impact, Environment / Net Zero, Media Coverage, National Grid, Network Design, News, Politics, Project Updates, Uncategorized

Therese Coffey has been busy on our behalf. On 29 March, Suffolk Coastal’s MP spoke with forthright candour to the Delegated Legislation Committee, which was considering the Government’s Strategy and Policy Statement for Energy – WATCH her informative speech HERE

Remember our Newsletter 116 about the Saxmundham public meeting where Therese Coffey said she would now be able to speak out more on leaving her ministerial role, well maybe now she is finally “unleashed”, our very own Suffolk Coastal Boudica!?

This was a very good speech where Therese thoroughly examines what has gone wrong in recent years, regarding electricity infrastructure and the Suffolk Coast.

She states that the Prime Minister had previously publicly committed to looking at innovative and alternative solutions to reduce the amount of onshore infrastructure required (e.g. an offshore grid), but this has not happened.

Therese mentions that the Government is promoting the use of brownfield sites wherever possible, and yet in the case of East Anglia and Suffolk Coastal, the Government is not. She references Tilbury, Grain and Bradwell as existing brownfield sites which should be explored further.

She warns that as we hurtle to Net Zero, we are not sufficiently taking into account the impacts on environment and communities. She expresses frustration at the futility of the latest East Anglia ESO study which is clearly not worth the paper it’s printed on. ESO say that they are doing this study and consultation, but knowing it won’t make any difference, and this is an unsatisfactory process and understandably frustrating for local communities.

She calls upon the Government to play a more strategic role, to take more of a lead on the interim spatial strategy until NESO is established (which she fears could get delayed), not just leave it to National Grid ESO who are still not truly independent of National Grid PLC.

She suggests that National Grid’s current connection process is out of control, based on cobbled together plans and developers’ bottom-line demands appearing to determine the locations for connections to the grid. In particular, she mentions how Scottish Power didn’t get the price they were looking for relating to bringing in power to Bramford (a site that had been researched and consulted on), so they decided to rip up that connection agreement (with no liability/consequence), change their mind and basically hold the Government to ransom otherwise they would not proceed with the project. Of course, they then needed to find a new connection (that made more money for them), which is why we ended up with the connection and infrastructure proposed at Friston. Meanwhile Government and ESO run scared saying connection contracts cannot be changed because of commercial consequences (and threat of litigation), this is not a healthy balance of power, risk and reward between developers and the Government, who should be acting on behalf of British consumers and communities.

Her ringing words: ”my constituents have been shafted in this proposal” are part of her damning criticism of ESO and the whole process that has led to this calamitous situation for this region.

It was Therese Coffey who originally named us the Energy Coast and her current more vocal support is 4 years too late, but it is welcome nevertheless. We appreciate this new stronger voice, a more targeted, candid and critical one, and will push to make sure this continues.

Unfortunately, her words to the committee fell on deaf ears. She was a lone voice. Westminster is asleep or distracted.

Sunak still has time to make a U-turn. Ofgem is recognising that the best future transmission network design contains all the characteristics and benefits of an offshore grid (see Ofgem blog HERE). Our advice to Sunak is to heed Coffey’s warnings and follow Ofgem’s new more enlightened vision.