The SVU Newsletter

January 2011

We start by wishing you all a happy New Year. The year is getting off to a vigourous start and in this first Newsletter for 2011 we cover both the good news about the Suffolk County Council organised National Symposium on Future Energy Networks and the less good news about our worries concerning how windfarm connections will be made.

SVU Newsletter for January 2011

Monday, 31 January 2011

Hello and welcome to the first Stour Valley Underground Newsletter for 2011. Our fight goes on to rid our beautiful landscape of the threat of yet more pylons. We know the way forward to achieve thisand the Prime Minister agrees. Embrace the technology that he and we advocate and we can work toward a clean, efficient 21st century energy system and a pylon free landscape. This involves the building of an undersea grid. Put simply, we say take the power from the coast around the coast rather than across East Anglia and we won't need any more pylons. What still needs to come across land can go underground.

On the week before last's TV news we saw the Prime Minister announce that European energy ministers will work together on finalising plans to turn the undersea supper-grid into reality through an inter-governmental North Sea Offshore Grid Initiative which will look at linking offshore wind farms. The announcement came as part of aUK-Baltic Nordic summitthat took place in London. This all sounds very promising.


Last week we discovered that the energy industry regulator Ofgem is stopping National Grid building any part of the Supergrid. So the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) which should be implementing the Prime Ministers commitment to the undersea Supergrid is the department that includes Ofgem which is working to stop it happening! As a consequence, Ofgem are the concrete galoshes that are stopping the march to a better energy future. The result: Stour Valley Underground and all of the other groups who fight to free our landscape of the blight of pylons are embroiled in the complex world of industry regulation and government policy.

That's what we're up to, what else has been going on?.....

Key Points this Month

Why Suffolk County Council are right to say undersea is the way to go

The National Symposium on Future Electricity Networks

Windfarm connections - what a mess!

National Policy

Ofgem Regulation

National Grid's woes - TheUnderground Policy Consultation

The Pylons Issue on TV and Radio

Why Suffolk County Council are right to say undersea is the way to go.

You may well have seen Cllr Guy McGregor of Suffolk County Council on the BBC's Look East advocating an undersea connection to London for the new and coming on and off shore generators around East Anglia. And he and they are so right. The UK Government is already signed up to the North Sea (undersea) Grid and the Prime Minister last week committed us further to this development to support European grid integration and the full realisation of the potential of renewable generation. As we have said before, connecting all of Europe's renewable generation together is the only way to ensure our energy security and keep the lights on when the wind stops blowing. Then there is the not inconsiderable point that we are destined to become a major energy exporter again if we get the infrastructure right. Through windfarms etc,we have the potential to produce more energy than North Sea Gas and Oil put togetherand this will have a huge positive impact on our economy in the future. And all of that is before we consider the benefit to the amenity value of our landscape and the improvement to quality of life and the rural economy that can flow from a pylon free Gainsborough and Constable Country.

Put simply, what Guy McGregor and Suffolk County Council is suggesting is part of the far bigger project that is theNorth Sea Gridand the cost has to be seen in that context. In our opinion, the development of the undersea grid, far from being expensive is in fact an essential investment that will earn our Nation and the people of the East in particular, a great deal of income for generations to come. The jobs that accrue from this industry through servicing the wind farms etc will be considerable and have been estimated in the tens of thousands. So all this plus a beautiful, restored landscape - is has to be the way to go. Well done Suffolk County Council we say!

To be clear, what is being suggested here is...

The National Symposium on Future Electricity Networks

I am sure you have not heard me singing the praises of Suffolk CC quite so much before but they have truly embraced this issue and hearty cheers of support for their initiative are well deserved. On Wednesday 19th January SCC organised The National Symposium on Future Electricity Networksat the Institute of Civil Engineers in the shadow of Big Ben, London. Tim Yeo MP ably chaired the Symposium and we heard presentations from National Grid, Scottish Power Renewables, the developer of the huge Anglia 1 windwarm off the East Anglian coast, a joint presentation from our amenity groups from right across the country, Siemens, the vast energy industry manufacturers who produce the underground transmission lines we advocate and also the undersea transmission technology needed for the North Sea and other sub sea grids. We also heard from DECC and Ofgem who spoke about National Policy and regulation. Lastly we heard from an Environmental Economist who showed that the environment can be properly valued and environmental detriment caused by energy infrastructure costed.

Suffice it to say that this was a most interestingand energisingday. We in your campaign organisations worked into the small wee hours for a good few days to prepare our case and it was succinctly and dynamically presented by our team of Paul Hipwell from Somerset and John Foster from Suffolk. Our warmest congratulations go to both of these men and I can assure you that they "did us proud".

The Symposium concluded with a truly storming summation of the day by Tim Yep MP in which he gathered together all of the themes of the day and turned to the representatives of the DECC and Ofgem, forcefully calling on them to take on board the views and indeed demands of the public represented there, suggesting that the current state of affairs was simply unacceptable. So hats off to Tim Yeo - very well said!

This however was not the only highlight of the day. Colin Johnston, from energy industry giant Siemens gave an erudite introduction to undersea transmission and HVDC followed by the GIL underground line technology we advocate. In a gentle and charming brogue he explained what these technologies offered. At the end of the day, during the question and answer session, a delegate asked, "is there anything amongst the transmission methods we are calling for that your company cannot deliver?" Colin gently leant toward the microphone and calmly said "NO". Never before have I seen the word NO used to such great effect! You could see a deep warm grin spread across the whole of the assembled delegate body sitting before him. It was a wonderful moment that told us that what we seek is do-able. All we now have to do is get Government Policy and Ofgem Regulation to work together to enable it all to happen.

Windfarm connections - what a mess!

A representative of Scottish Power Renewables gave us a picture of the forthcomingAnglia 1 windfarm, and an alarming picture it is. Not because of its size but because the Government's policy and regulation regime are so woefully inadequate to ensure that windfarms such as this are connected in a coordinated and economic way, a way that would also have the least environmental impact. You may have read about this windfarm or seen news of it on TV. Based on the news, you may well think that it will be connected to Bramford near Ipswich by an underground cable. But the likely truth as shown by the following map is far scarier. Without the necessary policy and regulation in place the connection of the various parts of the windfarm are likely to be effected in an utterly ad-hock fashion with landfalls all along the East Anglian coast and absolutely no guarantees that the on land connection will be anything other than yet more lines of pylons to despoil our landscape.

(Taken from a slide shown by Scottish Power Renewables at the London Symposium)

Very sadly, this is not the only worrying document that brings the threat of even more pylons than we identified from National Grids Offshore Development Statement,ODIS, in ourlast newsletter. Another document from the EEC called theEuropean Wind Integration Studyincludes a huge table calledGrid reinforcement projects identified or confirmed. And as you can guess, it indicates more potential lines of 46 metre tall pylons that do not appear in ODIS or in National Grid's Seven Year Statement which should cover these.

National Policy

Currently there are public consultations into the National Policy Statements (NPS) and into Ofgem's regulatory regime. And there is supposed to be a public consultation into Underground Cabling Policy at National Grid. Then there is the IET/KEMA consultation/enquiry into the cost of underground cabling, paid for by National Grid with the Infrastructure Planning Commission being the theoretical "client". Lots to contribute to then - and we have. The trouble is the timing of these consultations because we need them to finish in the right sequence so that one can inform the responses to the next. The reality is that this sequencing is also a mess that needs revising and putting right if the appropriate policy is to result.

Ofgem Regulation

Ofgem are working on a new energy industry regulatory regime called RIIO which meansRevenue=Incentives+Innovation+Outputs. Sounds promising but actually we came to realise that this is at odds with the current draft National Policy Statements which still state that the only "economic" electricity transmission method is using pylons. This is just plain wrong and means that the innovation that RIIO seeks is precluded by fossilised National Policy.

Now this is really important:what we need is for the Ministry who are in charge of both policy and regulation, the DECC under Chris Huhne, to take the development of both NPS and RIIO in hand and construct them so that they work together to deliver the outcomes the country so dearly needs. These outcomes are a secure, economic, well integrated and efficient energy system of the lowest feasible environmental impact and one that maximised the potential for the UK to become a major renewable energy exporter such that the UK reaps the earnings and economic/employment benefits this could bring.

For the good of our Nation and our landscape, the NPS and RIIO must work together like the cog wheels of a fine clock.

Alarmingly, the DECC representative we spoke to said that Ofgem had to be independent and so this could not happen.

This frankly is madness - they both serve the same master.

The NG Underground Cabling Policy Consultation and otherNational Grid Woes

Currently they are many. They started a public consultation on their "Underground Cabling Policy" and now seem to have pulled the plug on parts of it. The on-line presentation of the consultation questionnaire is so biassed as to look ridiculous -check it out and see for yourself. But I wouldn't bother responding - better to wait until they restart it sans bias!

It is quite astonishing that an organisation as big as NG should think that they can get away with this sort of thing but then they are the firm who havejust been fined £8millionfor charging for work to the gas transmission grid which they had not done. Their integrity is what is coming into question here and that is very disappointing.

The dates for the next stages of the pylon consultations in various parts of the country are being put back still further. This must be hugely costly and indeed unnecessary because if they were to accept that the way forward is to execute any truly necessary on-land grid reinforcements using GIL in the sort of tunnels that have been constructed for the Olympic site, then they could start tomorrow and would not need this tortuous planning and consultation process to precede it.

The Pylons Issue on TV and Radio

Not only has the pylons issue reached a national platform in the environs of the Houses of Parliament, we have also had coverage on both TV and radio. BBC Look East covered the issue both last Sunday and on Wednesday with a live radio interview in between. This is very encouraging because it is hard to make a short, crisp story out of this nebulous and far reaching issue. That said, it is a very important issue and our much hoped for success will if it comes about, bring enormous benefit for generations to come.

Well that's it for this newsletter. Thank goodness I hear you say! We are moving to amore diagrams, less wordsformat and I think that also indicates the greater clarity with which we see the issue. We have just sent in our responses to the Government's National Policy consultation and will publish the text of the response along with other information for those who are interested, on our we site


Further Reading

Throughout our newsletter we provide links to websites that provide the evidence and information 

that supports our assertions.The links are identifiedthus.