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Darling and Miliband give green light to Thames Estuary revolution  

The Government today gave the go-ahead for two major offshore wind farms to be built in the Thames Estuary.

The London Array and Thanet schemes together total 1.3GW of green electricity, enough to power a third of London’s three million households when fully operational. They will make a significant contribution to the Government’s ambition – set out in the Energy Review – to deliver a five-fold increase in the UK’s renewable energy resource by 2020.

Commenting on the consent decisions, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Alistair Darling said:

“Together, once built, they will mark a significant stride towards our renewables target. It is a significant step forward in providing a greener and clean source of power.

“Britain is second only to Denmark in the offshore wind sector and projects such as the London Array, which will be the biggest in the world when completed, and Thanet underline the real progress that is being made.

“Achieving rapid growth in offshore renewables is essential if we are to reduce carbon emissions and improve the security of our energy supplies. The changes we have proposed to the Renewables Obligation in the Energy Review will give additional incentives to the development of marine energy.”

Environment Secretary David Miliband added:

“We expect this announcement will be the first of a number of large-scale offshore wind farms in the UK and will provide real impetus for the continued developments in the offshore renewable energy sector that will benefit generations to come.

“By issuing the licences to build the world’s largest offshore wind farms in the Thames Estuary we are re-enforcing the UK’s commitment to renewable energy and combating climate change and ocean acidification. Working with the developers and those engaged in the broader environmental debate throughout the challenging application process ensured that all the environmental issues were addressed, as well as the impacts to the marine environment.”

The London Array will consist of 341 turbines – each capable of generating between 3-7MW – five offshore sub-stations and four meteorological masts. They will rise from the sea 20km off the Kent and Essex coasts and will occupy an area 232KM 2 in size stretching between Margate and Clacton.

Welcoming the consent decision, James Smith, Chair of Shell UK said on behalf of the developer’s consortium:

“The London Array offshore wind farm will make a crucial contribution to the UK’s renewable energy targets. We’re delighted to have received the DTI’s consents today. I also welcome the Government’s commitment, made during the recent Energy Review, to adapt the Renewables Obligation. This will enable the commercialisation of technologies such as offshore wind that can deliver the larger scale projects required for emissions targets to be met. Moreover, the Government’s decision to reform the planning system for major energy infrastructure projects will help ensure a balance is struck between the national interest and local concerns.”

The £500 million Thanet wind farm will be located approximately 11.3km (7 miles) from North Foreland on the Kent coast and its 100 turbines will occupy an area of around 35km2. The project, led by developer, Warwick Energy, is being fast-tracked for delivery in 2008 and expects to provide electricity for around 240,000 homes.

Commenting on the day’s positive outcome, the Director of Warwick Energy Mark Petterson said: “We are pleased that the Defra and DTI consents have been granted. The emphasis must now be on the timely delivery of new renewable energy capacity to make a real impact on CO2 emissions. We urge all involved to stay focussed on the important tasks ahead.’

Both projects consented today will also bring significant economic opportunities to the local communities and to UK businesses.


Notes to Editors

* Round 1 details – Currently the UK is unique in the world with a large demonstration programme of offshore wind – Round 1 – where many UK companies are learning valuable lessons in installation and development of this technology. Round 1 projects, which are typically 60 – 108 MW capacity, will collectively total up to 1.1GW. DTI is supporting these projects with £107m of capital grants.

* Round 2 is taking place in three strategic areas – the Thames Estuary, the Greater Wash, and off the coast of North Wales/North West England – and, with the potential to deliver between 5 and 7GW of secure low carbon energy, will dwarf Round 1

* Offshore Transmission regime – Following a preliminary consultation in 2005, the Government announced on 30 March 2006 that it has decided the form of regulation to be applied to offshore transmission would be a licensed price control regime, implemented through a system of licences, industry codes and industry standards. This is broadly similar to the onshore regime, where the licensed monopolies (transmission owners and GBSO) are subject to a price control administered by the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority (Ofgem) aimed at increasing the efficiency of historical assets (infrastructure – cables, substations, etc) over time. For a copy of the consultation document click here: http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/ofgem/index.jsp

* Offshore wind farm decommissioning – Developers will be responsible for ensuring that their installations are decommissioned at the end of their useful life, in accordance with our international obligations. Earlier this month, the DTI published guidance on decommissioning of offshore renewable energy installations to assist developers in understanding and planning for their decommissioning obligations under the Energy Act 2004. For more details click here: http://www.dti.gov.uk/energy/sources/renewables/policy/offshore/page22500.html

* Renewables Obligation – The Government’s primary mechanism for supporting the development of new renewable generating capacity, including windfarms is the Renewables Obligation (RO). The RO, which was introduced in 2002, is a market-based mechanism that requires electricity suppliers to source an increasing percentage of their electricity sales from eligible sources of renewable energy. The Energy Review published in July outlined plans to increase the RO to 20% and to consult on the idea of ‘banding’, for more details:

* Planning – The DTI opened a consultation on planning last month, key points are:

1. Requiring local authorities to register any objections to proposed developments within set timeframes.

2. Requiring those taking part in the inquiry to indicate their preferred level of participation which will allow better timetabling.

3. The Secretary of State would be able to set a deadline for the submission of the Inspector’s report and recommendations.

4. To reduce the length of an inquiry, the Inspector can allow only a summary of evidence to be read out at the inquiry.

5. To focus the oral hearing of the inquiry on critical issues, the Inspector can direct that certain issues be primarily dealt with through the submission of written evidence.

6. The Inquiries could be held in concurrent sessions by a number of Inspectors Enabling the use of electronic communications for notification and circulation of inquiry-related information. For a copy of the consultation document click here: http://www.dti.gov.uk/energy/review/page31995.html

2. Warwick Energy – Warwick Energy Limited, a British developer of energy projects, was formed in 2000 by experienced energy professionals. Its current main focus of activities covers offshore wind developments (achieving early consent for the now operational Barrow wind farm in the first round of licencing and being awarded two of the fifteen wind farm licences in the second round), gas storage (a major project under development in East Yorkshire) and distributed generation from bio fuels (a number of sites being redeveloped to green energy).

3. London Array – Consortium details – The London Array consortium is made up of E.ON UK, Shell WindEnergy Ltd and CORE Ltd, a joint venture between Farm Energy, the originator of the project and DONG Energy. Development will take place in two phases to allow monitoring results on bird impacts from the first phase to be assessed before confirmation of the second phase is given.

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