Weekly News Review - 17th July 2023

Hornsea Four offshore windfarm given green light after delay

The Hornsea Four offshore windfarm has been granted development consent by the UK government following months of additional consultations. The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Grant Shapps, approved the project on Wednesday and said that although it would have some impact on the environment, this would be outweighed by “the urgent need for low-carbon energy infrastructure”.

The 2.6GW windfarm is the second largest to receive government consent following the 2.8GW Hornsea Three project. Developer Ørsted plans to construct the 180 turbine site in the North Sea, 69km off the Yorkshire coast. Once completed the windfarm will generate enough electricity to power over 1 million homes.

An Ørsted spokesperson said “Hornsea Four is the first ever offshore wind farm to be examined alongside a derogation case including environmental compensation. We are now reviewing the full detail of the development consent order and will continue to work closely with stakeholders and local communities as we look to take Hornsea Four forward sensitively and sustainably.”

“Climate change remains a very serious threat to our environment and habitats and there is an ever pressing need to act. We must accelerate the build-out of renewable energy if we are to meet our global climate goals and net-zero targets, as well as ensuring projects deliver long-term value.”

RenewableUK’s Executive Director of Policy, Ana Musat, said: “It’s great to see one of the UK’s largest offshore wind farms getting the green light from the Government, at a time when we urgently need to get cracking on building new clean energy projects to generate the cheapest power for bill payers and enable us to bolster domestic supply chains.”

“Hornsea 4 will strengthen Britain’s energy security significantly, helping us to move away from the volatility of international gas prices and closer towards energy independence, as well as enabling us to take a major leap forward towards net zero.”

UK Energy Secretary casts doubt on hydrogen for home heating

UK Energy Secretary Grant Shapps has suggested that plans to replace gas boilers in UK homes with hydrogen alternatives will be abandoned. This follows the news that a planned trial for the UK’s first hydrogen-powered community is set to be scrapped due to local opposition. It is likely the government will focus instead on the roll-out of electric heat pumps to help meet their legally binding net zero targets.

Mr Shapps said: “There was a time when people thought you will have something that just looks like a gas boiler and we will feed hydrogen into it. The problem with that is the hydrogen molecules are very small. You have to replace potentially quite a lot of piping.”

“So I’m not sure that home heating will be all through hydrogen, it will have a role to play. I think hydrogen will be used for storing energy. We won’t have to switch off wind farms at night when you don’t need the power because you can turn it into hydrogen and then use it later.”

Clem Cowton, co-founder of Octopus Energy, responded: “Pumping literal rocket fuel through the gas networks would cost tens of billions of pounds digging up and replacing pipes, and would condemn customers to heating bills three times as high as today.”

“With that bonkers option rightly off the table, we can now concentrate on helping the overwhelming majority of households exchange their boilers for heat pumps which are cleaner, safer and more efficient – and so ultimately cheaper – than burning gas inside the home.”

Gas company Cadent had planned to use the town of Whitby in Ellesmere Port to test the suitability of hydrogen for domestic homes. However, local residents raised concerns over the safety and affordability of the scheme. Cadent Gas said on Tuesday that it had been told that it was “not the preferred option” for the trial. The government is still likely to progress with the trial in Redcar in North Yorkshire, which is being run by Northern Gas Networks.

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