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National Grid ESO publishes final Phase 1 report on Offshore Coordination project

National Grid ESO’s Final Phase 1 report on a more coordinated approach to connecting offshore electricity infrastructure has been published.
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National Grid ESO’s Final Phase 1 report on offshore coordination has been published. Picture: Getty Images

Last year saw a major milestone in the UK’s energy revolution as the government passed a law requiring the UK to ensure net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Offshore wind has a significant role to play in this, as emphasised by the government’s recently published Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, with point one reinforcing the target for 40 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2030.   

One of the challenges to delivering the ambition in the timescales required will be ensuring that the offshore and onshore transmission network enables this growth in a way that is efficient for consumers and takes account of the impacts on coastal communities and the environment.    

The ESO Offshore Coordination project forms part of the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Offshore Transmission Network Review (OTNR). The ESO project has been examining a more coordinated approach to offshore network development, including the connections required and technology availability, and assessing the costs and benefits of such an approach to inform the OTNR.  

The consultation was launched on 30 September 2020 to seek stakeholders’ feedback on National Grid ESO’s approach to this analysis and subsequent findings.    

In response to feedback, it conducted a new sensitivity analysis on the impact of commencing integration in 2030, compared to integration commencing in 2025, as in its original analysis. This confirms that there is significant benefit in moving quickly to an integrated network and the importance of considering what flexibility there is for coordination between 2025 and 2030. 

The key messages in the Final Phase 1 report are:    

  • Adopting an integrated approach for all offshore projects to be delivered from 2025 has the potential to save consumers approximately £6 billion, or 18%, in capital and operating expenditure between now and 2050.    

  • There are also significant environmental and social benefits with an integrated approach, as the number of new electricity infrastructure assets, including cables and onshore landing points, could be reduced by around 50%.    

  • Delivering the extent of integration required in this timescale would be extremely challenging and potentially risk meeting the target of 40 GW of wind by 2030. However, the benefits reduce the later integration begins.    

  • An integrated approach for projects to be delivered from 2030, compared to the status quo, would deliver savings to consumers of around £3 billion (or 8%) and could facilitate a 30% reduction in the new electricity assets required associated with these offshore connections.   

  • There is therefore a need to deploy innovative and flexible approaches to the connection of offshore wind in the intervening period until a new enduring, integrated, approach is in place such that, as much as possible, the benefits of an integrated approach can be captured for consumers and communities without placing the delivery of projects underway and the offshore wind target at undue risk.   

  • The increased levels of offshore wind mean there will be an increase in onshore infrastructure in all options, including, and potentially beyond, that set out in the Network Options Assessment (NOA), However, adopting an integrated approach across onshore and offshore can minimise the overall increase.   

  • The majority of the technology required for the integrated design is available now or will be by 2030. However, a key component to release the full benefits of an integrated solution are high voltage direct current (HVDC) circuit breakers. A targeted innovation strategy in the UK, along with support for early commercial use, could help progress HVDC circuit breakers to commercial use and establish Great Britain as a world leader in offshore grids.    

  • There is a need for all parties to work collaboratively and at pace to enable Great Britain to achieve its offshore wind targets and net zero ambition at least cost to consumers and with least impact on communities and the environment. 

You can read the full report here.

Rob-AndersonRob Anderson, project director of Vattenfall's Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas offshore wind farms. Picture: Vattenfall
 

Rob Anderson, project director for Vattenfall’s Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas projects, commented: “Vattenfall has long supported better coordination of offshore infrastructure and our Vanguard and Boreas projects are world-firsts for using shared onshore infrastructure and cable routes. 

“National Grid ESO is right to examine what additional coordination can begin on projects which are in the early planning stages, and to recognise that further delaying projects which already have agreed grid connections, have entered the planning process and are in the later stages of development presents a serious risk that the UK will not meet the target of installing 40GW of offshore wind by 2030.”