Taking an integrated approach to offshore grid connections could save consumers around £6 billion, according to a new report from National Grid ESO.
The operator's Offshore Coordination Project report found that such an approach – which would mean there were fewer connections, leading to reduction in both capital and operating expenditure – would represent an 18% saving.
Some changes to the current regime will be needed, as not all of the decisions and actions required to move from a vision into a plan and reality are possible now.
The report forms the first stage of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) led Offshore Transmission Network Review, which will further look to progress this.
An integrated approach could reduce the amount of physical infrastructure required by half over the next 30 years, meaning fewer cables, landing points and network assets would be required. This has both environmental and social benefits, while the greatest cost benefits are expected to be felt in areas where high levels of infrastructure are required.
A final key takeaway from the report concerns technology, with National Grid ESO noting that the majority of the technology required for the integrated design is available now or will be by 2030.
But high voltage direct current (HVDC) circuit breakers could help the full benefits be realised, and by supporting early commercial use of the technology, Great Britain could become a world leader in offshore grids.
Fintan Slye, director of National Grid ESO, highlighted that offshore wind power will play a key role in the UK meeting its net zero by 2050 ambitions, so “we’re pleased to be working closely with BEIS and Ofgem on this Offshore Coordination project".
“Our initial analysis already shows the potential for significant cost savings and a reduced need for physical infrastructure but it’s crucially important we hear from a variety of stakeholders in this consultation, including coastal communities, developers and transmission owners. These views will help shape recommendations and proposals as the project moves forward.”
The report has been released to support National Grid ESO’s consultation on whether a more integrated approach to the connection of offshore renewable power and interconnectors would be beneficial to consumers, coastal communities and the environment. It invites responses on the initial cost-benefit-analysis of the conceptual integrated approach laid out in the report by 28 October.
The British government is targeting 40GW of offshore wind by 2030, and National Grid ESO’s Future Energy Scenarios (FES) suggests between 83GW and 88GW of network-connected wind will be needed by 2050 for the country to meet its net zero ambition.
With such high targets, the need to ensure the grid can grow in an efficient way that considers the impact on coastal communities is key.
Already Great Britain has 10GW of offshore wind, a key source of renewable generation that has allowed its clean generation sector to surge, producing 44.6% of the nation’s electricity in Q2 2020.
Steps are being taken to improve the connection of more wind power, including National Grid Ventures and Dutch transmission system operator TenneT recently signing a cooperation agreement to link Dutch and British offshore wind farms to the energy systems of both countries.
The Offshore Coordination Project – which is being supported by BEIS, the Offshore Transmission Network Review and Ofgem and other project partners – could further such improvements benefitting both offshore wind and interconnectors, which the FES suggests will grow from 6GW today to 27GW by 2050.