UK homeowners to be compensated for electricity cables built nearby

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Rishi Sunak’s government will compensate homeowners who allow high-voltage power lines to be built near their properties and speed up planning applications for the electricity infrastructure, in a bid to boost its overhaul of the UK’s power system.

The prime minister will accept most of the recommendations in a recent official report by the electricity networks commissioner into the slow pace of building new transmission cables, according to government insiders.

They said the government would publish its response to Nick Winser’s review either in chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement this month or in a separate statement by energy secretary Claire Coutinho.

Separately, in draft terms due to be published this month, Coutinho is expected to authorise more generous support for the offshore wind industry in next year’s subsidy auction. The latest auction round of subsidy contracts, announced in September, failed to attract bids from any developers.

Sunak has set a target of decarbonising the electricity sector by 2035, requiring rapid development of new wind turbines and solar farms and cables to move the electricity to where it is needed. 

Ministers plan to more than triple offshore wind capacity to 50 gigawatts by 2030 to help meet Britain’s legally binding target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Winser’s recommendations in August included lump-sum payments for residents living close to proposed transmission lines and a streamlining of planning and regulatory processes. 

He also called for a regular update of planning policy frameworks, a review of engineering skills for the industry and an Energy System Delivery Board, which would monitor progress of the system’s overhaul. 

In his report, Winser warned that the 12-14 years it now takes to plan and build transmission lines risked wasting output from new wind farms and pushing up costs for consumers. 

The government said it “welcomed the independent recommendations from Nick Winser” and would “respond to them in due course”.

The government added that its scheme for supporting offshore wind was a “UK success story” and it was “committed to a successful next auction round”.

Several key new transmission projects are facing opposition from local people, who have raised concerns about the impact of new pylons and cables on views from their property or the environment. 

Those include projects in areas represented by Conservative MPs, with former home secretary Dame Priti Patel supporting opponents of planned new lines in East Anglia.

In August, the MP for Witham in Essex dismissed the prospect of compensation payments as the “offer of cash bribes”. She said they showed there was “little interest in there being genuine engagement with communities to influence and improve infrastructure plans”. 

In addition to the tensions around new transmission lines, the government’s clean energy strategy is under pressure because of a sharp rise in the cost of developing offshore wind farms. 

In July, Swedish group Vattenfall halted work on its 1.4GW Norfolk Boreas project in the North Sea in July, saying it was no longer viable under the electricity price it agreed with the government in June 2022. 

Vestas, the world’s biggest wind turbine maker, told the Financial Times on Wednesday that plans for a new factory in the UK depended on clear local demand, which required more government support for developers.

Coutinho has hinted that the government is likely to increase its offer, telling industry executives recently that she was “committed to a successful AR6”, next year’s subsidy auction.

On Monday, she said the government’s plan to mandate annual North Sea oil and gas licensing rounds could help fund the transition to clean energy and other government priorities.


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