The Future: 

the prospect for yet more pylons across East Anglia

Background


All around the coast of the UK, new windfarms are being planned or built. In order to get the power from these new generation sites to the major electricity usage centres ( most notably London) a huge redevelopment of the electricity grid is essential. Rather than a full rethink of the way we distribute electricity, plans are afoot to reinforce the old on-land grid. These current plans cover the whole UK and are contained in a report calledA Vision for 2020from theEnergy Networks Strategy Group(ENSG). This report is being treated as a roadmap for reinforcement purported to be needed to keep the lights on in the UK and includes the NG Bramford - Twinstead Project.


The way in which the decisions as to how reinforce the old grid to accept all of the power from the new generators is governed by theNational Policy Statements on Energy Infrastructure(NPS). These are currently out for re-consultation after an earlier consultation conducted by the last Government. From this has come the current Government's "Draft National Policy Statements on Energy Infrastructure which include the "Government Response" to same. This includes an instruction to NG to join with them in having a report independently prepared on the true costs of underground cabling. I should point out that the current view expressed by the Government in the draft NPS is still pro pylon - anti undergrounding on erroneous grounds of cost and reliability. It is also worth noting that National Grid have said that they intend to press ahead with decisions on overground reinforcement projects before the "undergrounding" report is published. The report is being prepared for NG/DECC by the Institution of Engineering and Technology who have commissioned the organisation KEMA to research it. Seehttp://www.theiet.org/about/media-centre/press-releases/20101112.cfmandhttp://www.kema.com/Default.aspx



The new information


Late in September 2010, National Grid released its "Offshore Development Information Statement 2010" (ODIS) which contains both a huge raft of incomplete proposals and strategies for the connection of the offshore generators, together with clearly identified areas for "reinforcement" of the grid which includes 400kv connections overland to link landfall of the undersea cables to the existing grid. A brief look at the ODISdocument on page 73 reveals the immense scope of these developments and the pan-UK nature of same. The following shows examples taken from this document.


From small part of ODIS map for the whole of the UK page 73: Note red lines representing undersea cables from windfarm 3 that do not have a specified landfall (ends in arrow head below 4) These lines represent huge amounts of power (say appx. twice the output of Sizewell C) to be brought ashore - somewhere. 


from ODIS again, page 94: Note green oval from Lowestoft area inland west to south going line from Norwich. Green ovals represent places for "grid reinforcement ( you will see that Bramford-Twinstead also has one). The Lowestoft oval looks very much like a prospective line of pylons along the currently unspoilt Waverny Valley. Similar however can be found in all areas of the country and clearly, there are shown here,further proposed "reinforcements" for Norfolk.


It is currently the case that reinforcements will mean new lines of pylons because this is the standard NG solution to getting the power to market if we do not stop it. The ENSG report(link below)was rubber stamped by Government and NG are currently trying to implement it.In our view, the great danger is that ODIS will likewise be accepted as a blueprint for the development of the grid. East Anglia is far from unique in being identified for new pylon lines across the landscape. And yet East Anglia could well bear the brunt because it prospectively lies between the biggest windfarms the world has yet seen and the biggest electricity user area in the UK: London.


There has been an avalanche of information relating to this issue in recent months and this includes the long and complex DECC consultation documents in addition to ODIS from the NG site (over 130 pages) and includes all of the documents for the NPS and other consultations available from the DECC site.


The ENSG report mentioned above is available athttp://www.ensg.gov.uk/assets/1696-01-ensg_vision2020.pdf.


Also, the Crown Estate et al commissioned a report which seeks to establish the economic value to the Nation of offshore wind farms and this highly relevant document is available athttp://www.offshorevaluation.org/


This last shows the potential for offshore generation around the UK to be at least 3 times the total generation requirement for the country and would eventually make the UK a huge renewably generated energy exporter with potential output higher than North Sea oil and gas put together. This puts huge pressure on the country and energy industry to exploit this resource for economic reasons, let alone 2020/Kyoto objectives.


Taken together, all of this information leads us to the inescapable conclusion that a tidal wave of new pylon building lies ahead for all areas of the UK and East Anglia in particular. We in the east are far from alone and as you may know: similar problems, campaigns and issues are current in areas such as Somerset. But this issue will spread as the populations of other, as yet unaffected areas come to realise what will happen to their countryside if they/we do not contest it and have the grid developed in an environmentally responsible and acceptable way.We believe we need to raise awareness of what is actually more than a regional issue and certainly not just one for the Stour Valley or the Dedham Vale. The whole Nation will pay an enormous environmental price for generations if it does not wake up to what is a UK wide environmental threat from the energy industry.


For campaigners around the country, there have literally been 1000's of pages of documentation to digest recently - you might almost suppose someone was trying to swamp us with it all. But we can see the wood for the trees and it tells us that the whole Nation and in particular, East Anglia needs a wakeup call. Otherwise another tidal wave of pylon building - greater than seen in the 60's is about to break upon us.