Delivering an integrated approach for all offshore projects from 2025 is “extremely challenging” and could put the target of 40GW of offshore wind by 2030 at risk, according to National Grid ESO.
On 16 December, it published the final report from the first phase of its Offshore Coordination project, which forms part of the government’s Offshore Transmission Network Review. It explained that, in response to feedback from its original analysis, it carried out a new sensitivity analysis on the impact of commencing integration in 2030, rather than 2025. From this, it found there is a significant benefit in moving quickly to an integrated network, along with the importance of what flexibility there is for coordination between 2025 and 2030.
Delivering an integrated approach for all offshore projects from 2025 could save consumers £6bn, or 18%, in capital and operating expenditure between now and 2050, while leading to significant environmental and social benefits – the number of new electricity infrastructure assets, such as cables and onshore landing points, needed could be cut by 50%.
However, the level of integration required in such a timescale was found to be challenging and could put the government’s aim of 40GW of offshore wind by 2030 at risk. Despite this, the report noted that the later integration begins, the more benefits will reduce. If it were to commence form 2030, savings of around £3bn would be delivered, alongside a 30% reduction in the number of new electricity assets needed.
With this in mind, the report concluded there is a need to deploy innovative and flexible approaches to the connection of offshore wind in the intervening period until a new, enduring, integrated approach is in place and the benefits of an integrated approach can be captured for communities and consumers without risking the delivery of projects already underway and the offshore wind target.
While the majority of technology required for an integrated design is already available, or will be by 2030, the report highlighted the importance of high voltage direct current (HVDC) current breakers – considered a key component to realise the full benefits of an integrated approach. It called for a targeted innovation strategy in the UK, together with support for early commercial use, explaining that this could help to progress HVDC circuit breakers to commercial use and establish Britain as a world leader in offshore grids.
National Grid ESO will now progress to the second phase of its Offshore Coordination project from the start of 2021, with the aim of delivering ESO-led actions to help achieve the vision set out through the first phase of work.