Final decisions on Ørsted and Vattanfall wind energy projects off Norfolk coast have been pushed back until July
The offshore wind industry has expressed frustration at crucial planning decision delays for two major projects off the coast of Norfolk, arguing the UK is in "a race against time" to both minimise the economic impacts from the coronavirus pandemic and slash energy emissions in line with the country's net zero by 2050 goal.
Final planning decisions for Ørsted's 2.4GW Hornsea Three and Vattenfall's 1.8GW Norfolk Vanguard proposed wind farms were due to be delivered by Business Secretary Alok Sharma yesterday.
But the future of both wind farms will now have to wait for a few more weeks yet, however, after documents published on the Planning Inspectorate website yesterday confirmed decision deadlines for the projects have been pushed back until 1 July 2020.
No specific explanation has yet been given for the delays, but the Planning Inspectorate has previously said the coronavirus pandemic has forced it to delay a number of crucial hearings for major UK projects. BEIS was considering a request for comment at the time of going to press.
However, Hugh McNeal, chief executive of offshore wind trade body RenewableUK, said any delay in the decision-making process was "disappointing", arguing such projects were critical for both delivering jobs and growth amid the impending recession and decarbonising the economy.
"We want to work with government to achieve their ambition of 40GW of offshore wind by 2030 and the UK's wider net zero target," he said. "Major projects like these are vital to generate clean power on the scale we need to decarbonise our economy. We need the government to take decisions in a timely manner so that offshore wind can play a leading role in getting our economy back on track after the coronavirus crisis."
It is the second time Swedish energy firm Vattenfall's Vanguard project has been on the receiving end of delays from the Planning Inspectorate, which takes the final decision on major developments over a certain size in the UK.
The move comes just a week after a decision over whether to give the final go-ahead for another Vattenfall project - the proposed 1.8GW Norfolk Boreas wind farm - was delayed by another five months, which the developer at the time warned could "send the wrong signal" to the renewables sector.
Diane Lane, UK country manager at Vattenfall, expressed dismay at the latest delays, which she said would leave the offshore wind sector "wondering about the government's intentions for this sector".
"We're in a race against time to reduce emissions and need to respond to the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, yet crucial infrastructure decisions are being put on hold," she said. "While we appreciate the added difficulties posed by the current lockdown, some of the largest engineering projects ever built - capable of providing clean energy security and a vital economic boost to the UK - remain in limbo. For every day that goes by without a decision, there are consequences for the next phase of the project, so it's vital that there are no further delays."
It comes amid growing calls for the government to ensure the economic recovery is built around the UK's 2050 net zero target, with a letter from more than 200 major businesses and trade groups yesterday urging Ministers to prioritise green infrastructure such as clean energy projects to deliver jobs and growth as part of any stimulus package.
The government yesterday refused development consent for a 34-turbine extension to the Thanet wind farm off the coast of Kent, citing concerns about the project's impact on shipping, ports and marine navigation.
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