UK Blocks Offshore Wind Project, Three More Face Further Delays

In the past few months, three British offshore wind projects have been delayed, a total of 6 gigawatts. On Tuesday evening a fourth was blocked altogether. Although the industry maintains its faith in the support from the government, there is anger and concern that further hold-ups could have larger consequences.

Vattenfall’s Thanet Extension planned to add around 340 megawatts to the existing 300-megawatt Thanet project. The department for business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) said the impact on shipping was not outweighed by the additional renewable capacity the project would deliver. It was rejected after office hours on Tuesday.

Vattenfall’s Norfolk Vanguard and

In the past few months, three British offshore wind projects have been delayed, a total of 6 gigawatts. On Tuesday evening a fourth was blocked altogether. Although the industry maintains its faith in the support from the government, there is anger and concern that further hold-ups could have larger consequences.

Vattenfall’s Thanet Extension planned to add around 340 megawatts to the existing 300-megawatt Thanet project. The department for business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) said the impact on shipping was not outweighed by the additional renewable capacity the project would deliver. It was rejected after office hours on Tuesday.

Vattenfall’s Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas projects, each 1,800 megawatts, and Ørsted’s 2,400-megawatt Hornsea 3 site have all been hit by further delays recently. Hornsea 3 was supposed to be decided in October last year.

Good government relations begin to show cracks

There are no tangible signs that the U.K. government’s long-term commitment is wavering.

It has established a trusted tendering process via the contracts for difference program (CFD). There are 8.5 gigawatts of operational projects in U.K. waters. The non-binding sector deal, between the industry and the authorities, aligned the two on issues such as local content and supply chain development. The Ministry of Defence has been working proactively to relieve the impact on radar and aviation. The country set a 40-gigawatt offshore wind target by 2030 less than six months ago, up from 30 gigawatts.

Despite all this, developers are not happy about the impact of delays.

“Norfolk Vanguard is one of the most innovative and ambitious offshore wind projects in the world,” said Danielle Lane, U.K. country manager for Vattenfall. “Yet this is now the second time it has suffered a delay, despite addressing all of the major concerns raised during the planning process."

“Coming so soon after the decision on Norfolk Boreas was pushed back until October, the offshore wind industry will be left wondering about the Government's intentions for this sector,” she said.

On the Thanet Extension, Lane said the company would assess its options.

The refusal to approve the project can be challenged via a judicial review but that’s not quite the same as an appeal on the project’s merits. That process only looks at whether the original decision was lawful, it is not a reevaluation of a project’s application. As an example, earlier this year the lawfulness of the decision to approve a new gas power plant was challenged on the basis it was not aligned to the U.K.’s climate change laws, rather than whether the project itself was sound.

BEIS had not responded to GTM’s questions regarding the delays as news on the Thanet Extension decision broke.

Delays have consequences, Vattenfall warns

Although the latest delay to Vanguard pushes the decision by one month, Lane said there could still be consequences.

“For every day that goes by without a decision, there are consequences for the next phase of the project, so it's vital that there are no further delays,” she said.

Ørsted’s project has also been pushed back by one more month.

“We are obviously disappointed not to have a decision on our application for Hornsea Project 3,” an Ørsted spokesperson told GTM in an email. “We remain confident that Hornsea 3 is a viable project, which can play a vital role in helping the U.K. reach its legally-binding net-zero targets in an environmentally sustainable way…It’s important that momentum is maintained across the industry and we eagerly await the decision from the Secretary of State on July 1.”

The government has pointed to complications caused by the coronavirus for the latest delays.

Projects over 50 megawatts in size must apply to the national government for a development consent order (DCO). Since the U.K. entered lockdown in late March, two major energy projects have been granted their consents by authorities in London — the Riverside Energy Park and Cleve Hill Solar farm.

While nobody in the sector would advocate for a weaker, less rigorous planning regime, the frustration with the length of the process is palpable.

Enclosures

  1. ^ (greentechmedia.com)

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