Blown Away: Plans for offshore wind face resistance

May 2, 2022

2 min read

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What's going on here?

New onshore infrastructure for clean electricity projects in Britain might become a point of concern with local communities.

What does this mean?

The Government’s plan for greater energy independence is set to establish more sustainable and cheaper energy within the UK. The ambition for offshore wind in particular is set to increase the capacity fivefold from 10 gigawatts to 50 gigawatts by 2030. Two wind farms, developed by ScottishPower, have been approved off England’s east coast.

The issue arises from the plans (or lack thereof) for the onshore infrastructure which is required to connect these offshore wind farms to the UK’s electricity grid. Campaigners in Suffolk, the area affected, have organised a Suffolk Energy Action Solutions (SEAS) group and sent a “pre-action protocol” letter to the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, asking him to rethink plans. Failing that, the group will seek a judicial review.

So, what is the main issue with the onshore infrastructure? As it stands, SEAS points out that the projects are viewed individually, with the necessary substations and large cables installed individually for each project. Instead, according to the SEAS, a more holistic approach should be taken in planning to preserve the landscape the communities live in and ensure a more coordinated connection to the electricity grid.

What's the big picture effect?

Reliance on imports has been detrimental to countries across Europe as the war in Ukraine has increased volatility in international markets. As countries look for solutions, quick projects are likely to be favoured, especially the more sustainable energy options. The Government’s press release on Britain’s energy independence also looks at oil and gas, onshore wind and heat pump manufacturing. With this increase of projects, there will be an increase in the number of clean jobs in the UK. For law firms, think about the opportunities to advise on new energy projects within the UK as well as support an increasing workforce.

So what might be the issue? As mentioned above, the speed at which governments roll out these projects might result in a lack of coordination between projects. As such, the UK in particular might see more complaints from local communities which may escalate into a number of lawsuits. For example, in February 2021 the High Court quashed an offshore wind farm project in Norfolk. The project has since been re-approved by the Government. Local pushback might, though, derail projected timelines for projects.

As the cost of living rises, there is also a question of what else could be done to improve the UK’s energy situation. Sustainable sources of power are necessary, but it is also worth considering that the energy efficiency of UK homes ranks among the worst in Europe, according to the FT, and as of yet there is no strategy laid out to improve it. Let’s see which way the wind blows.

Report written by Monika Sakyte

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