This week, I have written to residents of Cawston, following concerns about the proposals to dig trenches for offshore wind farm connectivity.
As you will know, a number of offshore wind farms have applied for permission to dig trenches through your parish in order to connect their offshore wind farm to the national transmission network. The planned routes of these trenches can be found here: https://www.nationalgrideso.com/ document/183031/download
Whilst we all agree that underground trenching is better than overhead electricity pylons, out of date competition rules mean that each wind farm is currently required to dig an individual connection trench rather than collaborate with others to minimise disruptive infrastructure.
Why do they have to connect to the transmission network in this way at all? With plans to build many more wind farms in the North Sea, surely it would be better to have a coordinated offshore transmission network (“OTN”), that reduces the need for this kind of community and environmental disturbance?
Ever since I was elected as your Member of Parliament, I have worked with Greg Peck, your District and County Councillor, and other Norfolk MPs, to get the Government to change these rules. After meetings with the Energy Minister, OFGEM, National Grid, Orsted, Vattenfall and Equinor, last July we were successful in persuading the Government to order a review of the current connection rules. I am delighted to say that this review has now recommended a wholesale change to government policy: instead of continuing with individual connections the Government has accepted that it should develop an offshore network into which new wind farms can easily connect. This plan reduces social and environmental impacts (especially here in Norfolk) and actually saves money as well!
The Prime Minister wrote to me last week to confirm that he recognises the need for an early change to the rules and that he will do what he can to speed the transition. During this period of transition the Government is encouraging all wind farm developers to share connection infrastructure on a voluntary basis.
Whilst I am delighted to have been able to help change the long-term approach, and whilst I recognise that much new infrastructure needs to be designed and built, I believe that the Government has not gone far enough. In particular:
- The target of 2030 for the new network is insufficiently ambitious. I will continue to harry the Government to bring forward the new approach from 2030 to as close to 2025 as I can get. There is no point installing the OTN after we have already connected an additional 30 gigawatts of electricity generating capacity by 2030, which is the government’s target. Much better to get the structure in place as quickly as possible, making subsequent connections quicker and cheaper – as recognised by the National Grid ESO report;
- The rules dealing with wind farm connection need to be changed as soon as possible. I will continue to lobby for an Energy Bill that fixes the problem this year;
- More pressure needs to be put on existing plans to share their infrastructure and reduce the impact on our parishes. I will continue to lobby Equinor, Vattenfall, Orsted and the Energy Minister to promote this, including a re-writing of the traffic management plans for Cawston.
Having feedback from you about the impact of the current plans will help our discussions with the wind farm companies. If you feel strongly on this subject please do contact Councillor Peck, or me, on firstname.lastname@example.org or Jerome.Mayhew.email@example.com. Whilst a degree of infrastructure work is, I fear, inevitable, we will continue to fight on your behalf to minimise the damage and help to create a better solution for Norfolk and the country.
Jerome Mayhew MP