East Anglia's coast 'will be home to Labour's new generation of state-owned wind farms'
PUBLISHED: 15:54 24 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:05 04 November 2019
The coast of East Anglia will undoubtedly become home to a large proportion of the 37 wind farms the Labour Party has pledged to build if it enters government, an expert predicts.
Labour wants to significantly ramp up the already burgeoning sector as the cost of offshore wind fell below £40 per megawatt hour of electricity last week, claiming the rate of progress was too slow.
If its plans go ahead, the east coast will be a prime site to locate a good proportion of the wind farms proposed, said Simon Gray, chief executive of East of England Energy Group (EEEGR).
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The state would take a 51% stake in the farms under Labour's plans, with a fifth of profits invested in coastal communities. The rest of the profits would be reinvested into new renewables, improvements to the energy system and climate transition.
The 'people's power' plan would deliver 52 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 - equivalent to 38 coal power stations - and the new wind farms would provide electricity for 57 million households, Labour said.
The party said the proposals would create at least 67,000 new jobs in the offshore wind sector - particularly in Scotland, Yorkshire & Humber, North-East England - and East Anglia.
Mr Gray said the East Anglian coastline is a prime site for the wind farms, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it lies very close to the UK's largest population centres of London, the south-east and the land-locked Midlands, making it the cheapest point for the infrastructure required to deliver energy to the largest number of households.
On a construction and operational level, the shallow clay seabed of the southern North Sea is ideal for turbine installation, and the relatively benign sea and weather conditions are well-suited to them, in contrast to other areas of coastline, he said.
This was why so many of the UK's wind farms are already situated there, he explained.
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The coastline off Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex is already home to a host of wind farms including Greater Gabbard, Galloper, East Anglia ONE, Sheringham Shoal, Scrobie Sands and Dudgeon, off Cromer.
"Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex between them have about 56% of the total installed UK capacity," he pointed out. The UK has a very large capacity for wind installations, with East Anglia the dominant area by far, he explained.
Whichever political party forms a government in future, he predicted there would be much more development of the industry within the region as the price of the power it delivered continued to fall, proving the wind power naysayers wrong, he said.
As far as the Labour plans went, he would need to see more detail but felt they were "interesting", as such a high public stake in UK wind farms had not been mooted before.
"As ever, with something like this, the devil will be in the detail," he said. "Obviously, whatever happens, a lot of the wind farms will end up coming to the East of England."
Already, East Anglia's coastal towns are benefiting from new offshore training facilities and onshore hubs for the energy companies operating on the wind farms, he said.
"This is significantly contributing towards the regeneration of the post industrial towns in our region and that's what we are really keen to do," he said. "Immaterial of the whatever political party, we are going to see massive increases in offshore wind off the coast of East Anglia because the cost has come down so dramatically."
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey said: "While UK's offshore wind industry is still young, the UK has the opportunity to avoid replicating Britain's experience with North Sea Oil and instead to learn from countries such as Norway and Sweden by owning what is already ours.
"By taking a stake in offshore wind, we can collectively benefit from the profits, investing them back into our held back coastal communities."
Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom warned Labour's plans to nationalise huge swathes of the energy network would "damage the economy".