East of England MPs, known as OffSET (Offshore Electricity-Grid Taskforce) have given a warm welcome to a review by ESO, the Electricity System Operator, to consider “offshore routes” for electricity transmission in East Anglia. The MPs represent constituencies across Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex and are jointly campaigning for an offshore grid. They are particularly delighted that, at last, communities in the three counties affected by new grid infrastructure proposals will get the chance to see a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of offshore vs onshore options.
East Anglia GREEN is the National Grid proposal to reinforce the electricity grid to cope with rising electricity output – especially from offshore wind. MPs and their constituents in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex have been frustrated by National Grid’s focus on pylons and overhead lines as the solution to grid capacity, rather than undersea power links off the coast. Offshore options are being pursued at considerable cost in other parts of the UK (e.g. the Eastern Link from Scotland to the north of England).
The new review will:
- Identify alternative options that could address the capacity issue including “consideration of offshore routes”.
- Assess both the benefits and costs of each option (where, to date, National Grid’s cursory consideration of offshore options has purely focused on cost)
- ‘Benchmark’ costs of each proposal against other projects in Britain – important in light of the significant expenditure on the Eastern Link and other interconnector projects elsewhere in the UK
The review will follow the conclusion of the ‘Early Opportunities workstream’ which the MPs secured from the government, which has been looking at potential coordination of offshore wind schemes in East Anglia. The review is expected to be published in the summer and OffSET MPS are pleased that ESO have promised to work alongside MPs, Councillors and local representatives as part of engagement on the review.
Sir Bernard Jenkin MP says: “It’s about time that the views of our constituents were taken into consideration, so I am grateful that National Grid and the ESO have listened. Ministers have responded too. The so-called consultation was becoming a joke, without proper consideration of the alternatives. This is not going to solve the problem we face, but it starts to open up the possibilities of viable alternatives. Contracts may have already been signed, but they are all subject to planning permission being granted for the extra pylons. So hopefully, this puts everything on hold, just for a short period, while we look at longer term, more viable and sustainable alternatives to just pylons over peoples fields and homes.”
Rt Hon. Priti Patel MP says: “Local communities across the region are very concerned about the pylon plans so this review of offshore options is welcome and much needed. We have fought hard to get this review and ESO must advance this work quickly and engage with communities and campaigners in a transparent way. Alternatives to the pylons need serious consideration and this is part of that process.”
Rt Hon. Therese Coffey MP says: “While I understand for energy security the government commitment to provide 40GW of offshore wind electricity by 2030, I’ve consistently made it clear that it’s essential our precious landscapes and communities are protected by placing the infrastructure in the appropriate location. I, therefore, welcome the commitment by ESO to consider “offshore routes” for electricity transmission but it’s clear National Grid needs to go a step further and also get on with assessing brownfield sites as alternatives to already proposed onshore infrastructure. It’s vital that a proper comparative assessment of the environmental, social and economic impacts are carried out before these connections proceed further.”
James Cartlidge MP says: “I totally support the need to enforce our electricity grid so that it can cope with the demands of our extraordinary offshore wind success story – with renewables making up 40% of our electricity generation last year. However, it is vital that consideration of new infrastructure to reinforce the grid looks at all potential options, including offshore transmission. To date, the proposed East Anglian GREEN reinforcement has felt like a ‘fait accompli’ with only one onshore route offered to communities to engage on, a ‘swathe’ of land from Norwich to Tilbury, with undergrounding confined to the AONB. Thus, for some months now, together with my East Anglian colleagues, I’ve been calling for an independent expert to be deployed to look in earnest at offshore options for transmitting our regional electricity output, so that my constituents could be presented with the full facts and cost/benefit analysis of onshore vs offshore options. I therefore warmly welcome this review, which will be undertaken by an expert body that is not National Grid itself – although inevitably they will have to contribute to compiling the data – and which, most importantly, will fully consider offshore options for East Anglian electricity transmission. To be clear, this review is not of itself a guarantee that plans for onshore reinforcement will be cancelled; that would be unrealistic and I believe my constituents understand that. However, what my constituents have wanted is a fair process, with open discussion of the relative merits of onshore and offshore options. It now appears that we will get that information, so that a proper debate can proceed, and I would strongly encourage ESO to involve my constituents in that process as much as possible.”
Rt Hon. Kemi Badenoch MP says: “Residents rightly have concerns about the approach National Grid has taken thus far on these proposals. I welcome this review neighbouring MPs and I have been calling for, which will ensure alternative options to the pylons are being properly considered. We all recognise the importance of reinforcing our electricity grid to cope with demand but it is vital that consideration of new infrastructure is done properly with both onshore and offshore options explored.”
Jo Churchill MP says: “Following months of campaigning for National Grid to assess all options for East Anglian energy transmission, including a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of offshore and onshore options for new grid infrastructure, I am pleased to hear about the upcoming review by ESO. My constituents have quite rightly been asking for fairness and independence in this process which I now anticipate will be delivered. It is right that they have now committed to engaging fully with MP’s, councillors and constituents and I strongly encourage all affected communities to have their say to ensure that all options are thoroughly considered so that we can ensure we get the right result for our region whilst supporting the UK's energy mix and resilience for the future.”
Dr Dan Poulter MP says: “Whilst it is important to recognise that we must deliver greater reliability and capacity in our energy supplies, as well as increasing our energy security, this simply cannot be at any cost or to the detriment of our Suffolk countryside and natural environment or indeed to the detriment of Wattisham Air Base. Following meetings with senior personnel, I remain concerned that vital operations at the base are not compromised due to National Grid's controversial East Anglia Green proposals. Working together with my fellow East Anglian colleagues, we have been calling for offshore options to be fully explored, so whilst I welcome this independent review, it is important that National Grid now come forward with open and transparent information so that we are all aware of the onshore and offshore options, rather than the currently proposed East Anglian Green corridor.”
Richard Bacon MP says: “This is a welcome step in the right direction. It is as a direct result of the determination of everyone who has continued to indicate their strong opposition to the proposed pylons. I am delighted that ESO will undertake this review which will look at all the options including the consideration of offshore routes. I strongly encourage my constituents to fully engage with this review.”
Alex Burghart MP says: “This is a victory for people in and around Ingatestone who have campaigned to have their voices heard. Crucially this means that an offshore alternative to these unnecessary pylons will have to be considered. This is a major step forward but there is still a long way to go.“
Sir John Whittingdale MP says: “I very much welcome the establishment of a review of the options for new grid connections in East Anglia which will include the possibility of an offshore transmission route. I hope that there will now be a thorough examination of the relative costs both of the different options in East Anglia, as well as in comparison with those chosen in other parts of the UK. It is also essential that the review is future-proofed to take account not just of existing generating capacity but also developments going forward such as a possible new nuclear power station at Bradwell-on-Sea.”.
Jerome Mayhew MP says: “This is an important step forward in the campaign to consider offshore alternatives for windfarms to connect to the National Grid. Big infrastructure decisions that impact communities in Broadland should be based on the best evidence. I hope that this review will help provide it.”
George Freeman MP says: “The East is at the forefront of the offshore wind revolution that is already strengthening our UK energy resilience and driving forward the decarbonisation of our energy network. Our region must have a proper say in how the necessary infrastructure is delivered however, with all of the available options up for consideration. I therefore welcome the news that the ESO have listened to MPs and campaigners and are launching a review to consider “offshore routes” for energy transmission. This is a positive step in the right direction and I would encourage all of my constituents to have their say.”
James Wild MP says: “People across East Anglia are rightly concerned at proposals that would see our landscape blighted by unsightly pylons. By campaigning together, MPs have secured this review to think again and look properly at the offshore options for this infrastructure to support the highly successful offshore wind generation. While there is no guarantee of the outcome, an evidence based review represents a positive step forward with communities able to make their views known.”
Duncan Baker MP says: "We have to balance the needs and concerns of local communities when considering our energy infrastructure and this review is a huge step forward. Communities across the region and North Norfolk in particular, have some of the largest concentrations of offshore wind farms whose cable corridors are being chased through the country side. Working with my East Anglian colleagues this has been a shared project to benefit the wider region when it comes to the transparency and accountability of decision-making on offshore routes. A great step forward."