The Crown Estate and the Electricity System Operator (ESO) have today unveiled a new chapter in their working relationship to accelerate the transition to a net-zero, nature-positive energy future. Amid a growing need to unlock investment to deliver on UK clean energy targets, while protecting the marine environment, the organisations have signed a renewed Statement of Intent to collaborate more closely on future strategic planning.
To reach net-zero by 2050, the UK Government is targeting the delivery of 50 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 and the decarbonisation of the power system by 2035. The electricity sector is also set to almost triple in size, with more than 50% of generation expected to come from offshore energy, by 2050. These future scenarios call for a vastly more coordinated approach to seabed leasing and the delivery of transmission infrastructure to realise the UK’s clean energy potential, while considering other seabed users and the natural environment. Respectively, as manager of the seabed around England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the electricity system operator for Great Britain, The Crown Estate and the ESO have a central role to play in realising this potential.
Today’s renewed agreement will see the organisations enhance current levels of information-sharing on seabed leasing plans and grid design options to best enable future seabed leasing activity and energy infrastructure planning. It will also see them collaborate closely on two key recommendations from Nick Winser, the Electricity Networks Commissioner, on how to accelerate the deployment of transmission infrastructure in Great Britain: a Strategic Spatial Energy Plan (SSEP) and a Marine Delivery Routemap.
The SSEP, a spatial energy plan that sets out what needs to be built, where, and when to deliver on 2035 targets, is part of a wider landscape of planning reform aimed at accelerating network investment, including connecting offshore wind. Owned by the ESO, the SSEP will - for offshore projects - leverage The Crown Estate’s investments in data and evidence, such as the Marine Data Exchange and the Offshore Wind Evidence & Change programme, to ensure it takes into account nature and biodiversity.
The Marine Delivery Routemap will feed into the SSEP to make sure it factors in non-energy sectors and nature. Demand for seabed space will accelerate by 2050 as renewable energy and other industry sectors expand. The Crown Estate is anticipating this growth by building an integrated, spatial analysis platform which considers demands on the seabed. This spatial analysis platform will underpin the Marine Delivery Routemap to ensure the SSEP reflects the needs of non-energy sectors, including storage, minerals, coastal, and nature, and to provide long-term visibility on what vital investments are needed to develop the marine space in a sustainable and strategic way.
Gus Jaspert, Managing Director, Marine, The Crown Estate, said: “The seabed is facing a transition, with more demands on it than ever before. This means the decisions the UK needs to make over how best to use this precious resource to support a growing set of priorities, including net-zero, energy security and nature recovery, are becoming ever more complex. More long-term visibility is needed on how the marine space can be managed to fulfil these competing demands and unlock vital investment for the future.
“That’s why I welcome today’s commitment between The Crown Estate and the ESO to collaborate more closely on strategic spatial planning. Only through these kinds of partnerships will we be able to charter a course that helps to meet the needs of everyone who requires the seabed to deliver our net-zero targets, alongside our food, transport, tourism needs and the needs of our natural environment. This holistic and forward-looking planning will not only help to improve the deliverability of offshore projects and reduce costs, but will also provide visibility and certainty to support targeted investment across the range of interests that rely on our seabed for their survival.”
Julian Leslie, Chief Engineer and Head of Networks, ESO said:
“We are pleased to commit to working even more closely with The Crown Estate through the updated Statement of Intent signed today. Our collaborative efforts and long-term vision for strategic spatial planning will support the development of a more coordinated approach to the delivery of transmission infrastructure and accelerated connections for offshore wind projects.
“We must all work together and at pace to enable Great Britain to achieve its offshore wind targets and net-zero ambitions at the least cost to consumers and with least impact on communities and the environment.”
As well as collaborating more closely on future strategic planning, today’s renewed Statement of Intent also commits both organisations to working together in the following ways:
Implementing and engaging with other relevant organisations (as appropriate) on wider Connections Reform recommendations in relation to seabed leasing and connections;
Developing a deeper understanding about how Habitats Regulation Assessment responsibilities apply to plans involving offshore renewable areas and grid connection corridors, and
Exploring opportunities for public alignment on relevant issues.