Katherine your Chair has been busy corresponding with Claire Coutinho (who is the new Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero and was appointed in August 2023) on the onshore infrastructure for windfarms. Her intial email is below.
12 September 2023
By email to Secretary.State@energysecurity.gov.uk
TO: Claire Coutinho MP Secretary of State Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ)
1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0ET
Dear Secretary of State
As the civic society for the historic coastal town and cultural centre of Aldeburgh, we are strongly opposed to the plethora of energy projects being proposed by various operators for our fragile Suffolk Coastal area.
We object to the concept of an onshore ‘Energy Superhub’ in the area of Sizewell and the medieval village of Friston, which would involve 6 major infrastructure projects within five square miles, this in a largely rural area with an already inadequate road system. The cumulative impact of multiple projects would effectively industrialise the Heritage Coast, which is supposed to be a nationally protected Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (containing also a number of SSSIs, SPA and RAMSAR designations), and would undermine the local nature-tourism reliant economy, which is of major importance to our town.
The power which would be generated by the offshore windfarms and - if it goes ahead Sizewell - would not be used on the Suffolk Coast or in East Anglia. Instead, its onshore infrastructure of substations, cable corridors and pylons would plough through our countryside in order to power London and the South East. We are strongly in favour of offshore wind power but we deplore the absence of joined-up thinking about overall network design and infrastructure and we believe that national government needs to act urgently to ensure a more coherent and much less damaging approach.
We support the many local voices calling for a more cost-effective solution based upon the development of an offshore grid. Progress towards this concept is now clearly technically feasible, and it would also be more cost-effective, saving billions for British consumers, giving energy security and safeguarding the environment and local communities. Pooling energy from windfarms offshore and linking them with interconnectors would be economic, would enable energy to be brought closer to where the demand is, and would avoid complex onshore planning and compulsory purchase issues. Bringing the power ashore in brownfield locations would promote local economic regeneration, and would raise fewer environmental protection problems.
Whilst we understand that a fully integrated offshore transmission network (offshore grid) will take a number of years to develop, action can be taken now to help achieve Britain's future wind capacity goals at lower overall cost to the nation and to local communities.
It is very encouraging that two pilot projects involving pooling energy at sea and transporting power by subsea cable closer to demand are already under consideration. These need to be implemented in order to test and perfect this technology over the next few years. The first pilot project is already being planned by the Five Estuaries and North Falls windfarms, combining with the Nautilus interconnector and taking power to the Isle of Grain as part of the OCSS (evidencing the sound rationale for this solution). The second pilot project, which would be of particular benefit to our coastal area, would combine Scottish Power's EA1N and EA2 windfarms with the projected LionLink interconnector to take power to the brownfield site of Bradwell closer to London, which has an existing substation and pylons that can be upgraded, offering huge overall savings.
We are convinced that an offshore grid, such as is already being developed on the other side of the North Sea, would help enable Britain's future energy goals to be met both faster and at lower cost. This really has all the attributes of a win-win solution, and we know that the initial steps are readily achievable. We strongly urge the Government to provide, and implement robustly, a clear policy framework through which this highly desirable aim can be fulfilled.
Chair, the Aldeburgh Society
47 Park Road
Aldeburgh IP15 5EN
This produced a rather unsatisfactory response from one of her officials which you can read here
She has now written a response as below:
By email to Secretary.State@energysecurity.gov.uk Claire Coutinho MP
Secretary of State
Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ)
1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0ET
Dear Secretary of State
Your official's reply dated 3 October to the concerns set out in my letter of 13 September is profoundly disappointing. To dismiss the case for undersea transmission infrastructure at the same time that it is being implemented widely across the North Sea and also in other parts of the UK is not acceptable. Linking wind farm power undersea with interconnectors is a coherent way forward, with potential benefits for all partners and for coastal communities.
Your Prime Minister laid great emphasis in his Party Conference speech on the importance of proper planning for the long term and of doing things differently. Yet your Department is clinging to the unplanned developer-led approach which is threatening to do so much damage to the Suffolk coast. Piecemeal installation of windfarm and interconnector onshore infrastructure is a major threat to our coastal AONB. Just the mass of construction traffic that can be anticipated could bring the whole area to a standstill.
Given recent experience with the handling of the Planning Inspectorate's reports on the SPR windfarms and the Sizewell C DCO applications, it is hard to give credence to your assurance about the robustness and independence of the national infrastructure approval process.
It is essential for central government to assert more control over these development proposals, not least in order to help ensure that there is public acceptance for the difficult and challenging process of moving towards net zero while electricity demand is set to increase exponentially. Letting developers ride roughshod over communities and landscapes, while holding out the carrot of 'community benefits', is not good enough.
All the best
The Aldeburgh Society