Anglian Energy Planning Alliance
THE THREAT TO OUR ENVIRONMENT
Clean energy is vital if the UK is to respond to our climate emergency. But private energy companies wanting to profit from it must not be allowed to destroy the environment. Here in East Suffolk, companies are proposing to build 9 massive energy infrastructure projects that would turn the seashore and its rural hinterland into an industrial landscape. Their proposals would destroy miles of the internationally recognised Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, ancient woodland, species-rich meadows, marshland and lowland heathland, one of the world’s rarest habitats, as well as the fragile eco-systems that depend on them. At the same time they would overwhelm small rural communities with their colossal size and with the years of disruptive construction works and constant heavy road transport needed to build them.
8 of these proposed projects are huge energy buildings to service offshore windfarms, with motorway-sized cable routes between them and the seashore.
Scottish Power Renewables (owned by Spanish company Iberdrola): A 30-35 acre site (about the area of Wembley Stadium) for 2 power buildings that will tower above the local church to serve its EA1N and EA2 windfarms, plus a National Grid connector station, on the edge of the small rural village of Friston. A similar acreage for a lorry park, plus construction service sites. Each windfarm requires its own 32-metre wide cable trench (the average UK motorway is 33 metres wide) from landfall (an 8 acre site) on an unstable beach at Thorpeness 6 miles away. Scottish Power have failed to consider any of the brownfield sites available.
National Grid Ventures: A further 2 giant power buildings 24 metres high (the height of a 7-storey building) for their proposed European Interconnectors, Nautilus and Eurolink. These are likely to be built next to Friston village.
Existing windfarms Galloper & Greater Gabbard (owned by an international consortium) are to be expanded requiring more onshore infrastructure nearby.
National Grid: Two 2GW interconnectors between Suffolk & Kent with associated substations and onshore cables expected to industrialise more land between Sizewell and Friston, the first with a completion date as soon as 2028.
The Crown Estate has announced a further round of windfarms to be developed off the East Anglia Coast. Their energy too must be brought ashore.
ARE THESE ONSHORE DEVELOPMENTS INEVITABLE?
But none of these projects requires such giant developments on land. There are proven viable alternatives. But the private companies involved are choosing the cheapest option, regardless of social and environmental damage. These economies are designed to increase profits for their shareholders, and will not be reflected in energy prices to UK consumers.
Destruction of the environment is unnecessary. Grid level storage can absorb excess power from wind and solar panels, which have become more efficient and cheaper, and release it later. Smart grids can use variable pricing to even out the usage of power and reduce peak demand. An offshore hub, as used by the Netherlands and Germany, would avoid the need for separate massive onshore connections for each windfarm. Recent studies have shown that as well as having less impact on the environment, offshore hubs are also more cost effective. Energy technology and the economics of renewables and storage have advanced rapidly since the government last assessed energy policy, reducing the requirement for a new generation of nuclear energy.
Yet EDF Energy (Electricite de France) and its project partner Chinese General Nuclear are proposing to build 2 vast new nuclear reactors at Sizewell - the 9th and largest energy project set to overwhelm Suffolk's East Coast. It would be almost identical to its sister project, Hinkley C in Somerset, which is already under way. The severe environmental and social costs of that project are being felt by local communities there.
Similarly, Sizewell C would cover 79 acres plus further acreage for car parks, storage, 3 quarries, with a multi-storey ‘town’ to accommodate 2400 construction workers next to the hamlet of Eastbridge and a caravan park for 600 nearby. The Environment Agency has identified a long list of environmental problems. The internationally recognised RSPB Minsmere Nature reserve which would share a boundary with Sizewell C has voiced strong concerns about water levels and the devastating disruption to birds and wildlife. And local communities affected have united to express their opposition
At an estimated cost of £20 billion Sizewell C is too expensive, too destructive, too slow - Sizewell C could be obsolete before construction has been completed. The National Infrastructure Commission has said that the costs and delays to new nuclear are such that the UK has to refocus on more deliverable and cheaper renewable energies.