The UK energy transition, how the marine environment is supporting this. 

The UK is legally committed to reach Net-Zero emissions by 2050 and with our energy system being one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide globally, we need to deliver a wholesale change in how we generate, transmit and consume energy. To my mind, the marine environment is absolutely crucial in helping address these challenges and in today’s blog I am going to discuss just a few of the different ways we are seeing the marine environment lead the UK energy transition charge.

What makes our marine environment so valuable to addressing our energy challenges?

  • Generation: UK waters are home to some of the strongest winds in the world, as well as the 2nd highest tidal range in the world, making it an attractive region for energy investment.
  • Commercial Maturity: UK policy is underpinned by a very healthy pipeline of renewable energy projects and lease awards whilst bodies such as The Crown Estate and Crown Estate Scotland (CES) are helping drive forward both Offshore Wind and other low-carbon technologies, such as wave and tidal.
  • Space: whilst noting various constraints do still exist offshore, it is generally more straightforward to develop infrastructure at the scale required to reach Net-Zero further in our marine environment. Taking energy transmission infrastructure as an example, it is generally easier to refine transmission infrastructure offshore when compared to the same capacity infrastructure onshore.
  • Supply Chains: The Offshore Wind Sector Deal, announced in 2019, is pushing forward the UK supply chain for Offshore Wind. Building on existing supply chains, two new Offshore Wind ports are being developed in Teesside and Humberside. With two decades of experience driving forward marine renewable energy projects, the wider technical and non-technical supply chain is world-leading

 

The UK is taking huge steps in offshore wind. This August, The Crown Estate proceeded with Offshore Wind Round 4, a major new leasing opportunity, unlocking up to 7 GW of low-carbon energy.  2022 also saw CES unveil the winners of their first ever leasing round for Offshore Wind – ‘ScotWind’ – which also notably included specific provisions for floating Offshore Wind. At the same time, CES have also been supporting the INTOG (‘Innovation and Targeted Oil and Gas’) scheme, a revolutionary new leasing round focused on projects which will help reduce emissions from oil and gas production.

Offshore Wind often steals the show when it comes to clean energy but this is not the only way our marine environment is supporting energy generation. Around the UK, there are a plethora of renewable and low-carbon generating facilities which are supported by the marine environment either directly (through provision of seawater as a medium for cooling, for example) or indirectly (through use of coastal waters to provide construction or O&M access). Notably, this includes both operational sites and planned infrastructure, such as Sizewell C, a new direct-cooled nuclear power station which recently gained development consent.

Generation is vital, but it is only one part of the energy system – we can’t forget that the transmission of energy from the point of generation to the point of use is critical. In summer this year, National Grid Electricity Transmission submitted plans for two new projects along the East Coast of the UK – Scotland England Green Link 1 (jointly developed with Scottish Power Energy Networks) and Eastern Green Link 2 (jointly developed with Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks). Each distinct project will provide up to 2 GW of transmission capacity, unlocking more of Scotland’s vast green energy capability.

Pushing the boundaries of technology further, National Grid Ventures is in the process of developing a new Multi-Point Interconnector called ‘Nautilus’ which will link the energy systems of the UK and Belgium, whilst providing infrastructure for connection of Offshore Wind along the route.

The pace of development in the marine environment and our energy transition is immense, and there are certainly many exciting opportunities – as well as great challenges, notably including the rapid pace of marine development required to meet Net-Zero targets and the associated challenges this raises for the project development and consenting process. In my day-to-day role with Xodus, I am working with leading specialists across the business to tackle these head-on.

In the next blog in this series, I will be exploring the challenges and opportunities associated with consenting floating Offshore Wind in the UK, and the implications globally.

 

Ed Walker MEI MIEMA MIMarEST MCIWEM CEnv CMarTech C.WEM, principal environmental consultant, working on a range of marine-power projects for Xodus.

Published Date
23 Sep 2022
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