Rethinking the UK’s Offshore Wind Grid Delivery Model Could Bring Significant Environmental and Societal Benefits

In an article for New Power, Guidehouse says ambitious offshore energy growth plans are driving new thinking about energy system design in the UK

The UK government’s ambitious climate change target to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels requires rethinking of the offshore wind grid delivery models. Experts are proposing a coordinated and holistic development of meshed offshore grids, rather than relying on radial developer-led connections, as practiced so far.

In an article for New Power, Izabela Kielichowska, associate director at Guidehouse, says that the UK government’s decision to take a more centralized approach will allow for better integration of offshore energy assets into the UK energy system.

“Centralized systems may lead to a lower system cost for grid development and better coordination of system integration,” Kielichowska said.

In a 2014 study, the European Commission analyzed the benefits of the meshed offshore grid for the North Sea, including the UK project pipeline. The study argued that a meshed grid is a more complex solution, but that it brings several additional benefits, including limited environmental and social impacts from additional infrastructure, better balance of variable renewable energy sources (RES), lower emissions related to backup capacity needs, and higher savings due to less cabling and better coordination of national energy systems.

In response to growing offshore energy targets, the UK initiated a discussion in late 2020 on rethinking its traditional developer-led models. The article references a National Grid study, which examines a more centralized approach that could bring significant environmental and societal benefits, as the number of onshore and offshore assets, cables, and onshore landing points could be reduced by around 50%.

“The sea’s energy is becoming a critical element of new, sustainable energy systems—in the UK, in other European countries, and in other markets such as the US East Coast,” Kielichowska said. “The foundations of new offshore energy system design are being created now and will influence the shape of the new power system for the rest of the century.” 


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