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An integrated offshore network could save consumers £6bn but risks remain

Great Britain is targetting 40GW of offshore wind by 2030.

Great Britain is targetting 40GW of offshore wind by 2030.

An integrated approach to offshore project from 2025 could save £6 billion for consumers, according to a new report by National Grid ESO.

This is equivalent to 18% in capital and operating expenditure between now and 2050, and is accompanied by numerous significant environmental and social benefits the report noted. In particular, the number of new electricity infrastructure assets, including cables and onshore landing points, would be reduced by around 50%.

However, while there are numerous benefits to coordination, delivering the integration to the extent needed over the next decade would be “extremely challenging” it noted. As such, it could potentially risk meeting the Great Britain’s 40GW offshore wind by 2030 target.

Offshore wind is set to play an integral part in Great Britain’s decarbonisation, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson increasing the target to 40GW in October. It has since featured heavily in the government policy, including the recently released energy white paper which suggested together with solar, wind generation could as much as quadruple by 2050.

With offshore wind set to expand exponentially, the Offshore Coordination Phase 1 Final Report notes that while integration risks the 40GW target, the benefits – of which there are many – reduce the later work begins.

For example, if integration is delivered from 2030, savings reduce to £3 billion compared to the status quo from 2030. This is a saving of 8%, and would facilitate a 30% reduction in new electricity assets required associated with offshore connections.

Onshore infrastructure will need to increase in all scenarios to accommodate increases in offshore wind, but by adopting an integrated approach it can minimise the overall increase in infrastructure and cost. Therefore, all parties should work collaboratively and at pace to allow Great Britain to reach its wind targets, and by extension help the country fully decarbonise at least cost to consumers and least impact to communities and the environment.

The majority of the technology is already available or will be by 2030 for constructing an integrated design. Key to this will be high voltage direct current (HVDC) circuit breakers, which will help to release the full benefits of integrated solutions. The UK should adopt a targeted innovation strategy to support early commercial use and progress use of HVDC circuit breakers, making Great Britain a world leader in offshore grids.

Going forwards, National Grid ESO will commence Phase 2 of the project in 2021. This will include more detailed technical analysis, as well as explore short term opportunities, the operator stated, and deliver a roadmap of actions.

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