LEP warns of billions lost if East’s new energy projects delayed

Vattenfall’s Horns Rev 3 offshore wind farm in the North Sea off Denmark. The Swedish power company

New Anglia LEP is calling for a quick conclusion to Vattenfall’s applications for wind farms off the Norfolk coast - Credit: Vattenfall

Business leaders fear Norfolk and Suffolk could miss out on billions of pounds of investment and a big jobs boost as a result of delays to energy projects.

New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has written to government calling for reviews into controversial proposed infrastructure schemes for Vattenfall’s Norfolk Vanguard and Boreas wind farms to be concluded swiftly. Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is expected to deliver a decision on them in the next few days.

The plans have met with fierce local opposition to proposed cable trenches – which are required for each wind farm as the energy is brought to shore. 

Opponents, which include 85 parish council objections, are calling for an Offshore Transmission Network (OTN) where cables are brought together offshore via a network to be brought to shore at a point as yet to be decided. Energy experts argue this proposal is at too early a stage and would wreck wind farm schemes which are at a more advanced stage. The LEP says it fears investor confidence and opportunities may be lost for local businesses, jobs and skills.

It has written an open letter to energy minister Greg Hands and is urging senior government officials to take part in the region’s All Energy Industry Council, enabling strategic discussion around crucial issues such as supply chain, skills and innovation.  

It also wants Norfolk & Suffolk designated as the UK Integrated Energy Systems Region, piloting improvements in energy generation and distribution in rural areas. This would focus on the clean growth supply chain, identifying the best opportunities around energy security, desalination, hydrogen, decarbonisation, utilities, agri-tech, aqua-tech, electric vehicle infrastructure, residential and commercial smart grids.

The region has been at the forefront of delivering energy for the nation for more than six decades, the LEP said, and is a global leader in offshore wind. It is predicted that £78.51bn will be invested in offshore wind in the eastern region and £138.541bn for all energy between now and 2050.

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But to fully capitalise on these opportunities and play its part in delivering government net zero targets, it needed “greater clarity on delivery timescales across the energy pipeline”.

The LEP warned of the dangers posed by delays to such significant developments as Vattenfall’s Norfolk Vanguard and Boreas wind farms — due any day as well as the proposed Sizewell C nuclear power station in Leiston, for which energy giant EDF is seeking approval.

“Not only are delays detrimental to the regional economy and local communities, but to the UK as a whole and our collective ambitions to deliver the Net Zero Strategy,” said the LEP.

“We respect that due process must be followed in all cases; however, government must ensure the ongoing Norfolk Vanguard review and any future reviews are concluded quickly to give confidence to all future energy projects.

“Delays affect investor confidence and could lead to the developer and the region potentially missing out on future CfD (Contracts for Difference) opportunities, further negatively impacting the opportunities for local companies, local jobs and skills.”