Major utility provider RWE nPower caused a stir within the region’s renewables sector when it was inferred northern Lincolnshire could lose out on major investment for offshore wind – because of an ongoing onshore planning dispute.
The company is behind the controversial Saxby Wold proposal, which has already been refused permission by North Lincolnshire Council, despite being recommended for approval by the authority’s planning officers.
The firm is also behind the Triton Knoll and Dogger Bank offshore schemes, large enough to generate 11 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs.
Mike Parker, head of onshore development at RWE, told the Renewing The Humber conference how a decision on port location was due in 2014 for Triton Knoll, a 150 to 300-turbine development 20 miles off the Lincolnshire coast. He said 250 jobs could be created in the area.
But to the amazement of many delegates, he played off the huge investment with the onshore issue the company is facing with the same authority that has fully supported the region’s offshore push.
Mr Parker said: “The first real message is that these schemes can be built from anywhere from the North East to Norfolk. The checks we will make are very much influenced with experience within the onshore market.”
Underlining the £560-milion investment that would be made by the firm in the North Sea, directly off the Humber sub-region, and how prominently the area was in the company’s plans, he then revealed the issues faced with the onshore project.
The 18-turbine development is a standalone scheme, worth between £50 million and £60 million, of which £10 million to £12 million would be invested in the region.
But referring to last December’s decision, welcomed by residents living in and around Horkstow and South Ferriby, he said: “Frustration came when council members would go against officers recommendations and refuse the scheme.
“We are going through the appeals process and resubmitted with some alterations to re-engage with local decision-makers. For us it is really important to understand why these choices were made locally. Factual reasons were around landscape and impact on Viking Way, but professional planners had decided the impact was reasonable and acceptable.”
Going on to reveal details of conversations with councillors, he said there was a feeling they were not bothered about onshore wind, adding: “More frustratingly, locally, we had members say to us ‘we know this will get approved but we can’t be seen to do this politically.We will let this go through the appeals process’. This gives us a sense of what it is like to do business in this area.
“The experience we have in the onshore market here will have a big impact on the offshore piece. It all comes down to two things, confidence and relationships we have with stakeholders, decision makers and people in the local regions.
“Experience with Saxby Wold does not give us comfort or confidence that we are working with organisations, with stakeholders and decision makers, that are genuinely supportive of a renewable business.”
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