East Anglia: National Grid explains undergrounding move

THE cost of undergrounding the entire stretch of cables between Bramford and Twinstead would be a prohibitive �500 million, National Grid has said.

The energy giant has acknowledged that the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley areas are “highly valued” and agreed to underground two 4km sections of the controversial route at an additional cost of �156.4m, bringing up the overall price of the connection to �207.7m.

But while able to justify the additional spend on undergrounding a portion of the line, National Grid is unwilling to more than double the cost to the �500m it says it would take to bury the entire route.

Last year alone National Grid recorded profits of �2.6billion and the new connection is intended to have a lifetime lasting several decades.

When the announcement about the route was made in 2009 the EADT launched its Stop the Pylons campaign and community groups were set up.

Campaigners say the extra spend is justified when considered against the long-term nature of the project and Suffolk County Council says the work would cost every UK power customer just 40 pence a year.

But National Grid insists that the company is investing �31billion into the network over the coming eight years and has to justify the cost of every project to energy watchdog Ofgem.

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Senior project manager Shaun Hughes said that much of the vast profits the company makes are reinvested into the network and fed back to shareholders.

He said: “It’s costing �150m extra to do the undergrounding in the Dedham Vale AONB and the Stour Valley. In terms of the current connection to underground the whole route, you’re looking at being in excess of �500m. Bearing in mind National Grid is looking to invest �31billion in the whole UK network, we have to justify every project.

“The profits that we do make, we re-invest some of that into our network and some of that goes to pay shareholders.”

He said there was a “genuine need” for the new connection with plans for the future generation of renewable energy and low carbon energy along the Suffolk coast.

Mr Hughes added: “The views of the public continue to be important to us. We are grateful to all those who have already responded and we have carefully considered the issues they raised.

“This feedback has been important in helping us shape our proposals. We now want to work with local communities and landowners to minimise the impact of anything we build.”

The next stage of the project will see continued discussions between National Grid and landowners and an exact route identified.

The company will then consult on its final draft proposal, before submitting a formal consent application to the Planning Inspectorate. The application is expected to be made in 2013.