National Grid’s pylon comment branded ‘exasperating’

Remarks from the boss of National Grid that hundreds of miles of pylons will be needed to reach the UK target of 50GW from offshore wind has been described as “exasperating” by a campaign group fighting overhead power line plans

The boss of National Grid John Pettigrew has warned of a need for a 110-mile line of electricity pylons between Norfolk to Essex given the target from government that offshore wind generation should increase from the 10GW being produced now to 50GW by 2030.

But that plan that currently involves miles of new overhead power lines across large swathes of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex between the east coast and Tilbury has dismayed campaigners who want the plan redeveloped so cabling goes undersea around the coast and up the Thames estuary instead.

Under bold plans to boost long-term energy independence, security and prosperity through a significant acceleration of nuclear including a plans for the development of Sizewell C, the new ambition is for 50GW to be generated from offshore wind – more than enough to power every home in the UK.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday National Grid CEO John Pettigrew said: “The target the UK Government has set is 50GW of offshore wind by 2030. In order to get that generation to where it is needed requires a huge amount of infrastructure to be built.

“To get a sense of it over the next eight years onshore we will need to build about seven times as much infrastructure in the next seven or eight years than we have built in the past 32 years.

“You will have 50GW of offshore wind on the east coast, today we have 10GW.

“In order to transport that electricity to where it is needed we are going to have to have more cables and more overhead lines.

“One of the things National Grid has been advocating for is that local communities should get benefits when they are hosting this infrastructure.”

His comments were picked up by campaigner Rosie Pearson who is advocating undersea cabling as an alternative to building overhead lines.

Mrs Pearson, who chairs the Essex Suffolk Norfolk Pylons action group, said on social media: “Exasperating to hear National Grid’s CEO on that hundreds of miles of pylons will be needed but not mentioning that a fully integrated offshore grid is a better solution for consumers, communities and the environment.”

Hopes have been raised that new prime minister Rishi Sunak will stop a 110-mile line of electricity pylons being built between Norfolk to Essex, part of National Grid’s ‘East Anglia GREEN’ project – which seeks to carry electricity from wind farms off the Norfolk coast down to the Greater London area.

Thousands of people across the region have expressed concern over the scheme’s visual and habitat impacts, with more than 22,000 signatures collected on a petition against it earlier this year. But with Mr Sunak’s arrival in Number 10, campaigners – who say the route should go offshore instead – are cautiously optimistic about what his premiership could mean for the project’s future.

Mrs Pearson said: “Unlike Liz Truss, who had her head in the sand about how to transmit excess wind power from the North Sea out of East Anglia, Rishi Sunak did state his position clearly during the summer leadership campaign.”

In an August letter to the group, a spokesman for Mr Sunak said he was “committed to doing all he can to reduce the amount of infrastructure required onshore” – a pledge Ms Pearson said her group was “delighted by”.

She urged Mr Sunak to reopen a government study called the Offshore Transmission Network Review (OTNR), which looked at how energy projects could be more efficiently joined up. “The short-sighted offshore transmission review, published this summer, threw East Anglia under a bus by ignoring the need for an offshore grid,” said Ms Pearson.

The route would begin just south of Norwich and pass through Suffolk and Essex including parts of Braintree, Chelmsford and Brentwood to reach Tilbury, on the Thames estuary.

Commenting earlier this month, a National Grid spokeswoman said: “The next phase of consultation in late Spring 2023 will include detailed information showing how we have developed the scheme in response to the feedback received, as well as providing greater detail on the route of the proposed onshore corridor and how we will be mitigating impacts on local communities living in close proximity.

“We strongly encourage local communities to continue to engage with us. Consultation feedback and local knowledge will help us to develop the best way forward while supporting the ambition of the country to achieve targets for clean power, efficiently, economically and quickly.”


Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter