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UK Plans £60 Billion Grid Overhaul To Support Offshore Wind Boom

  • The National Grid's "Beyond 2030" plan proposes a £60 billion investment to overhaul the UK's electricity network for offshore wind power.
  • The ambitious plan aims to achieve 86GW of offshore wind by 2035, surpassing the world's current total capacity.
  • Thousands of miles of cables will be laid, with a potential "electrical spine" to transport wind power across the country, while minimizing the need for pylons.
Offshore Wind

Pylon-haters beware – the National Grid has unveiled a multi-billion pound plan to overhaul the UK’s energy and electricity framework.

The ‘Beyond 2030’ report outlines the need for a £60bn injection to fortify the UK’s embattled offshore wind sector and how it can be used to power the country.

It sets out an ambitious target of 86GW of offshore wind by 2035 – more than exists today in the world as a whole.

For many, this will mean using electricity generated from the current and planned stock of wind farms off the coast of Scotland, which could reach 30GW of total generative power – 8GW more than the UK has currently.

This will be achieved through the laying of thousands of miles of cables to transport power generated from the wind farm centres to where people live, through the use of offshore “bootstraps” down the East Coast.

Additionally, an “electrical spine” could be created to transport this power travelling down from Aberdeenshire and the North Sea to Merseyside, though the ESO said this was very much an “early-stage option which will require further consideration and consultation.”

Adam Bell, director of policy at think tank Stonehaven and former head of strategy at the government’s Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) department, told City A.M. it’s an “unavoidable truth” that bold reforms needed to be made and for good this time.

“It’s going to be a mammoth undertaking and another round of the latest infrastructure war that the government has fought with itself many times,” he said.

The National Grid said that the Beyond 2030 network design “efficiently” uses the seabed to reduce the footprint of offshore cabling connecting to shore by a third and reducing the need for offshore infrastructure such as pylons.

In practise, this means around 560 miles of upgrades to the existing undersea cable network, as well as entirely new 2369 mile and 994 mile offshore and onshore networks, the latter of which could be either overhead or underground.

But although there may be fewer pylons blotting the landscape of areas which have campaigned against them, such as East Anglia, the National Grid’s proposals create problems for different areas in the same vein, such as the east coast of Scotland, the North West of Manchester into Cumbria.

“You can describe them as knights in shining armour as much as you want but people are still going to be upset,” Bell added.

The reforms will be a much-welcomed first step to try and revolutionise a system that has been mired in slow progress for decades creating, among other issues, a jammed renewable energy development pipeline.

As of February last year it was estimated that around 200GW of capacity from offshore wind projects awaited a grid connection with some developers being warned of 13-year wait times.

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Fintan Slye, executive director of ESO said: “Great Britain’s electricity system is the backbone of our economy and must be fit for our future. ESO’s Beyond 2030 network design outlines recommendations on the investment needed and how and where to coordinate the build of this new critical national infrastructure.

“To deliver the clean, secure, de-carbonised system set out by Government and Devolved Governments we must take swift, coordinated and lasting action working collaboratively across all parts of the energy sector, government, the regulator and within our communities.”

By CityAM 

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