ESO East Anglian Study – March 2024

The recently released study by the Energy Systems Operator (a part of National Grid) assesses different ways to transfer electricity once it’s landed from certain offshore windfarms off the coast of East Anglia to where it’s needed. 

Ten network configuration options that transfer power across and around the region have been assessed using the following metrics:

  • cost to consumers,
  • deliverability and operability
  •  impact on the environment
  • impact on local communities

The report finds that there is no recommended optimal path nor is there a universally accepted solution that delivers the required electricity network capacity needed by the early 2030s.

It concludes:

What is evident is there is no single option that minimises impacts across all the metrics. Critical trade-offs will need to be made between the cost borne by the consumers, communities hosting this nationally significant infrastructure as well as environmental considerations.

It does demonstrate that an HVDC underground scheme from Norwich to Tilbury could be cost efficient, subject to longer delivery timescales of 2034. However it will have negative implications for Suffolk, requiring more onshore infrastructure in the Friston area.

Local campaign groups responses

Local campaign groups have slammed the report as:

a massive missed opportunity to look at the benefits of a fully integrated offshore grid. Worse still, the perfunctory and piffling offshore coordination due to it being voluntary not strategic has led to ADDITIONAL infrastructure being proposed onshore. Worse than that, Bradwell-on-Sea, which has an unused substation and unused pylons AND a landowner willing to accept more infrastructure, remains ignored. It is, frankly, a mess.

Rosie Pearson Community Planning Alliance

The UK Government and offshore wind developers off the east coast must soon decide upon their progression to the next stage of their voluntary offshore coordination. This study will provide all stakeholders with a range of options that could meet the network capacity needs of the region should offshore coordination progress.

Sadly, it does not clear the way for an offshore grid.

The final report will be considered by the Transmission Owner – NGET – as part of their ongoing development of the Norwich to Tilbury circuit route ahead of the statutory consultation scheduled for later in 2024.