Race Bank, a huge offshore wind farm that would be operated and maintained from Grimsby, appears to be caught in a political storm.
Claims that the scheme could be abandoned in the national press have been dismissed by Centrica Energy, the company behind that and two other operational farms looked after from the town.
The energy giant, owner of British Gas – one of the big six under a tide of criticism for huge price rises – was said to be close to ‘pulling the plug’ on the £200-billion Round Two proposal – according to national media organisation The Telegraph – because subsidies are seen as too low.
It is a position strenuously denied by a spokesperson to the Grimsby Telegraph, which could mean the massive investment is being used a political pawn between consumers, investors, suppliers and the Government.
The energy giant had declined to comment as part of the article, which claimed three sources had alluded to the position over the 450MW site, consented back in July 2012.
As reported in May, Centrica wasn’t shy about setting its stall out on a project now worked on for a decade, underlining the position in an interim management statement.
It read: “On our Race Bank project we have made a proposal to Government regarding the economic framework, to deliver investment alongside a financial partner. Discussions continue, however, they may take some time to resolve.”
At the time we reported how a decision on investment had been expected this year from Centrica, but that may now be further out than anticipated, even by the utility giant. Updated information on the corporate website now reads: “The project remains subject to a final investment decision by Centrica during 2014.”
Speaking to the Telegraph today, a Centrica Energy spokesperson said: “The position hasn’t changed at all. The Government is going through a consultation and we haven’t got the output of that. Until we have that it is a little bit difficult to say, but by the end of the year, or pushing on further, maybe we will.”
It comes ahead of the industry gathering in Birmingham this week for Renewable UK’s Annual Conference and Exhibition, a last chance for industry to influence the debate as the long-awaited Energy Bill nears Royal Assent.
A sizeable crowd from the area will be there.
Enthusiasm for Race Bank has certainly been evidenced locally, from Centrica, with a meteorological mast already serviced from the port.
Three months ago, when Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg officially opened Lincs Round Two wind farm from the quayside that forms part of Centrica’s £3-million Port of Grimsby East base, Race Bank was happily talked about by the executives who came to town.
It forms a sizeable chunk in the jobs aspirations for Grimsby and the burgeoning role it is playing in operations and maintenance, and comes as Dong Energy’s Westermost Rough and E.on’s Humber Gateway farms are being brought forward from emerging bases neighbouring the Centrica new-build.
Depending on the technology employed, up to 116 turbines could be installed should Race Bank go-ahead. With estimates at one job created per turbine, the importance of Race Bank’s realisation to North East Lincolnshire is clear.
The Government announced proposed subsidies, termed strike prices for renewable contracts for difference recently, and confirmation is expected when the Energy Bill receives Royal Assent – potentially next month.
Offshore wind projects realised in the next financial year will receive £155 per MWh generated, decreasing to £135 for farms reaching fruition in 2018-19.
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