Prime minister says coast could be the 'Riyadh of offshore wind' in PMQs

Duncan Baker, Conservative candidate in North Norfolk. Picture: SUPPLIED BY THE CANDIDATE

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker asked a question to Mr Johnson remotely at Prime Minister's Questions.  - Credit: Archant

The prime minster has appeared to back a community campaign to have energy firms take a more co-ordinated approach offshore wind farm projects.

Duncan Baker, North Norfolk MP, asked Boris Johnson at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday if a newly-formed taskforce could look at the concept of an offshore transmission network, also known as an offshore ring main.

Prime minister Boris Johnson at Downing Street

Prime minister Boris Johnson answered a question about wind farms at Prime Minister's Questions.  - Credit: PA

The idea is that wind farms off the Norfolk coast, including three already in the works - Vanguard, Boreas and Hornsea Three - could share onshore infrastructure so multiple substations and cable corridors would not have to be built. 

It follows the High Court overturning the government's granting of developmental consent for Swedish firm Vattenfall to build Vanguard last week.

Mr Baker told parliament: "If the UK is to become the Saudi Arabia of wind power, then it is off my coast of North Norfolk that is surely the capital. But the current piecemeal and environmentally damaging connection method to the National Grid is holding us back.

"We need legal and regulatory reform now."

Ray Pearce, who lives close to where cabling from the wind farm would go underground . Picture: Ian

Ray Pearce, who lives close to where cabling from three wind farms would cross, has praised Mr Johnson's answer.  - Credit: Archant

Mr Johnson congratulated Mr Baker on his campaign to make north Norfolk "the Riyadh or possibly the Jeddah of offshore wind".

He said: "I can tell [Mr Baker] that we are certainly looking at the issue of the transmission network review and we are in the process of developing the necessary regulatory changes."

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A spokesman from Vattenfall said: “Vattenfall has long been calling for better grid coordination for offshore wind infrastructure, and it’s very encouraging that the prime minister has said the government is developing the necessary regulatory changes.

"People must realise that even when offshore connections are possible which allow multiple wind farm developers to plug into them and can cope with the huge volumes of power that will need to flow through them, there will still need to be onshore substations and either underground cables or overhead pylons to transport the electricity on land."

Vattenfall's offshore Norfolk Vanguard project promises to be one of the largest in the world. Pictu

Vattenfall's offshore Norfolk Vanguard project promises to be one of the largest in the world. Picture: Vattenfall - Credit: Archant

The spokesman said it would be "the best part of a decade" before the regulations and technology would be in place to enable an offshore station.

He said: "We can't postpone investment in offshore wind development - with all the jobs and community benefits that investment provides - for that long.

"It's simply not an option in the fight against climate change, nor for the people of this country who have been promised a green industrial revolution."

Ray Pearce, who lives near Reepham, brought the challenge to the High Court because of concerns over the damage wind farm infrastructure could cause.

Mr Pearce praised the prime minister's response, and said: “It’s really important that our representatives, MPs and councillors take up the mantle and protect the environment of Norfolk in an appropriate way.”

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