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Harnessing the power of our seas will be crucial in reaching Net Zero – but we need a co-ordinated approach

Elaine Greig, Member of the IET’s Energy Policy Panel | The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)

3 min read Partner content

The increasing use of offshore technologies across the oil, gas, wind, hydrogen and electricity industries make the seas a powerful asset for the UK’s Net Zero goals. But without clear co-ordination, the opportunity to maximise these benefits will be constrained.

The busy seas and the marine environment around the UK are a vital but finite resource, under heavy demand for both use and protection.  

While the UK Government has set an ambitious target to install 40 GW of offshore wind by 2030, we must now ensure we plan effectively to fully utilise the pivotal role offshore energy could play in reaching Net Zero.  

The government’s plan will take all of the current capacity, so an effective strategy to deploy new renewable energy and grid networks, while adapting current infrastructure both on and offshore, is crucial.

Beyond this target, additional capacity of renewable energy, including offshore wind, will be required to meet the ultimate goal of Net Zero by 2050. All of this points to the importance of a much more joined-up approach in tackling the issue - the first step being full engagement with the whole energy industry in planned coordination. 

The IET’s landscaping report maps the UK’s offshore cable landing points and grid connection models, reiterating the importance that both must be considered in a coordinated energy system. 

Restrictions have also been identified on common cable landing locations across the UK, with increased pressure in response to the new targets. The IET’s landscaping report maps the UK’s offshore cable landing points and grid connection models, reiterating the importance that both must be considered in a coordinated energy system. 

Looking at the current market, there are at least 50 high-profile industry initiatives with over 500 participants in various interest groups and a significant number of smaller initiatives currently taking place.

Of these initiatives, there are 16 key groups actively progressing offshore network integration. There is surprisingly little overlap between these groups showing an urgent need to inform and implement opportunities for better integration. 

The benefits of a joined-up approach stretch far wider than the UK’s Net Zero targets, not only in tackling these constraints and fractured systems but also in providing more efficient supply chains, better regulation, the creation of jobs and lower overall cost (including to the end user) to name a few. 

It is evident there is a very clear, national shared interest in the optimum use of the offshore resource which puts us in a very good position. However, knowing how to get there is less studied and must now be a focus.  

Areas such as the Baltic region in the EU demonstrate to us that in an area where there is no market competition in transmission, the industry is able to work together to develop a coordinated multi-purpose system.

We need to adopt this kind of coordinated approach should we want to maximise the benefits of all existing and emerging technologies to transition to Net Zero by 2050. 

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