Policy Exchange says sector wealth funds could be introduced among range of measures outlined in a new report [Image: Abby Anaday/Unsplash ]
The UK Government should compensate communities that host offshore wind farms and new onshore infrastructure, according to a new report from Policy Exchange.
The ‘Crossed Wires’ report said that the government should introduce mandatory Offshore Wind Wealth Funds for all new projects.
These funds should pay for upgrades to community facilities, to improve local skills and to provide enhanced local services.
For a typical 1GW offshore wind farm, the fund would pay around £2m per year to local projects for the first 15 years of operation.
The report is written by Ed Birkett, senior research fellow in Policy Exchange’s energy and environment unit.
Former energy ministers Andrea Leadsom (pictured) and Amber Rudd have contributed to the foreword of the report.
Offshore wind farms have much less impact on local communities than onshore wind farms, but there are still negative local impacts from new infrastructure, according to the report.
These include new underground cables, new electricity ‘substations’, new power lines and new pylons.
Each offshore wind farm builds its own connection to the onshore network, which can mean digging up the countryside for each new project.
This creates disruption during construction and lasting visual impact from new substations, power lines and pylons the report argues.
Other solutions are available, including an offshore wind ‘ring main’ to transmit electricity directly to customers in cities like London.
Without reform, Policy Exchange argues that there will be an unacceptable impact on local communities and the local environment.
The report calls for four reforms to deliver a coordinated onshore and offshore electricity network.
Firstly, the BEIS Secretary of State should establish clear accountability for planning Great Britain’s electricity network, including an offshore wind ‘ring main’.
Projects should be co-ordinated to minimise disruption, and compensate communities affected by new offshore wind farms and onshore infrastructure.
There is also a need a long-term plan for a Net Zero electricity network by 2050, planning the network 30 years in advance rather than 10 years.
Finally, developers should be encouraged to build and connect offshore wind farms in places where they will reduce energy bills the most by reforming Great Britain’s wholesale electricity market.
Ledsom and Rudd state in the Foreword: “Over the last decade, the UK has rapidly invested in green infrastructure.
“During this time, we have seen the importance of maintaining democratic consent for development.
“Without this, strong local opposition risked delaying or even blocking nationally-significant projects.
“That we can fix giant turbines to the seabed or even float them offshore is a marvel of engineering, but they still require significant new infrastructure on land, including underground cables, new substations in some cases the size of Wembley Stadium, new electricity cables snaking under beaches, and new pylons to transmit clean electricity to customers in cities and industrial areas.
“Local communities are rightly concerned about the sheer amount of infrastructure built by individual offshore wind companies and the Government must act.
“The Government should urgently carry out an audit of all outstanding plans for onshore infrastructure relating to offshore wind farms and consider ways to minimise the damage to precious inland areas.
“Where new onshore infrastructure is needed, we should compensate local communities through new ‘Offshore Wind Wealth Funds’.
“We already do this for onshore wind farms and we were planning something similar for fracking.
“It’s absolutely right that coastal and rural communities should be compensated for hosting new large-scale infrastructure that provides national benefits but has local negative impacts.”
Birkett added: “Offshore wind is a huge UK success story.
“But success brings new challenges.
“Unless the Government gets ahead of this problem, new offshore wind farms will be delayed or even blocked by increasing local resistance.
“Today, these problems mainly affect East Anglia. But as more offshore wind farms are built, we could see similar issues in North Wales, Humberside and the east coast of Scotland.
“The Offshore Transmission Network Review is a great start, but it needs to be part of a wider package to reform the electricity sector.
“It’s vitally important that these changes are included in any Energy Act that the Government brings forward in the next couple of years.”