Government blocks Vattenfall’s offshore windfarm expansion

The Government has refused to grant development consent for Vattenfall's 340MW windfarm extension off the coast of Kent, and has delayed two other planning decisions in the South East, in the same week that Total acquired a 51% stake in the £3bn Seagreen project in the Scottish North Sea.

Government blocks Vattenfall’s offshore windfarm expansion

Two additional projects are expecting planning decisions in July

Business Secretary Alok Sharma has confirmed that development consent for a 34-turbine extension at Vattenfall’s Thanet windfarm off the coast of Kent has been rejected.

The Government issued concerns that the 340MW extension would hinder shipping navigation in the approach to the Thames Estuary.

“The Secretary of State should not consent applications which pose unacceptable risks to navigational safety after all possible mitigation measures have been considered,” a statement from the Government reads.

“The conclusion of the Examining Authority is that the Applicant failed to demonstrate sufficient mitigation of risks to the safety of navigation to make them As Low As Reasonably Practicable.”

The Government has also confirmed that planning decisions on Vattenfall’s 1.8GW Norfolk Vanguard offshore wind project and for Ørsted’s 2.4 GW Hornsea Three offshore wind project have been delayed until the first week of June. Decisions on both projects were expected this week.

The delays have led to concerns from industry that the Government’s target of reaching 40GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030 could be missed.

RenewableUK’s chief executive Hugh McNeal commented: “The UK urgently needs new generating capacity to replace old power stations which are going offline and to reach net-zero emissions.”

“The government has set a target of quadrupling offshore wind capacity to 40GW by 2030 and if that’s to be achieved we need new projects to progress. Offshore wind is regenerating coastal communities by providing billions of pounds of new investment and boosting employment, so it’s unfortunate that Kent won’t be able to benefit from those opportunities as a result of this decision.”

Total control

It’s not all bad news on the offshore planning front. Energy giant Total has agreed to purchase a 51% stake in SSE Renewables’ Seagreen 1 offshore wind farm – expected to be Scotland’s largest offshore project.

Total will pay upfront costs of £70m with earn-outs reaching £60m potentially added based on performance conditions.

SSE’s chief executive, Alistair Phillip-Davies, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Total to deliver Scotland’s largest offshore wind farm, Seagreen, which will make a significant contribution to the UK’s green recovery from coronavirus by unlocking £3bn of low carbon investment and generating the low carbon power we need to reach net-zero.

Commenting on the announcement, Lloyds Bank’s head of sustainable and natural resources Jonas Persson added: “Renewables are central to the UK’s energy strategy if it is to achieve its 2050 net-zero carbon ambitions and secure its stat, us as a global leader for the future.

“Businesses are rightly calling for the Government to ensure that the plan for economic recovery is built on green principles, with funders and operators of schemes like Seagreen looking beyond the immediate uncertainty to the long-term value that these projects bring – both in terms of energy capacity and the local economy.”

Matt Mace

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