The renewable UK, the UK renewable industry group, considers that the East of England could become a hub for trade in renewable energy with Scandinavian countries if the proper regulations are drawn up and put in place.
RenewableUK has voiced its hopes that a North Sea report by the UK Parliament's second chamber, the House of Lords, would help move forwards a regulatory framework to allow the import and export of wind energy. The East coast of England is home to some of the UK's largest offshore wind farms, with Norfolk, Suffolk, Kent, and Essex being the closest counties.
As with onshore wind projects, the UK cries out for an urgent strategic and political vision and package of measures that would reap the considerable economic opportunities for future generations. With the UK General Election less than two months away, the parties are concerned not to alienate any potential voters by unveiling large-scale plans for new wind farms. Hopefully, when the election is over and provided it's not a hung Parliament, the new Government can make it a priority to grasp the considerable opportunities that lie in North Sea wind power.
Nick Medic of Renewable UK (pictured above) gave evidence to the House of Lords Committee charged with drawing up the report on the industrial and environmental pressures in the North Sea. He said that if rules were put in place to allow imports and exports between the UK and Iceland, Norway and Denmark the "East could become a hub for projects".
"I hope this report can help us understand how to work better in the North Sea context. We are already seeing a lot of investment in the eastern region, such as in Lowestoft, we could easily see the doubling of what the UK provides in wind energy over the next five years."
Medic explained to the Committee that the technology was there to connect the UK to Norway and Iceland so as to trade energy, but no regulations had been formulated to provide the necessary economic framework.
The UK Energy minister and West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock told the committee that work was being undertaken to "overcome the regulatory barriers" that prevent the linking up of countries to a common grid. This is certainly feasible from a technical point of view, and the North Sea has an excellent natural resource in wind.
The House of Lords European Union committee said the North Sea was the "lifeblood of more than 60 million people" who lived on or near its shores and contributed around 150bn euros to the economies of surrounding countries. Baroness Scott, chairman of the committee, said a "coordinated and strategic approach" to the North Sea was vital.
Approval was given at the end of 2014 for the Hornsea One Offshore Wind Farm in the North Sea, that will be one of the biggest offshore wind farms. The plans include two alternative proposals, with either two 600MW offshore wind farms or three 400MW schemes, with up to 240 wind turbines. The application was made in this way to allow flexibility, according to developer SMart Wind.