LONDON — Plans for the UK to meet its net-zero and energy security commitments received a major boost July 19 as six fixed offshore wind projects, with the potential to generate renewable electricity for more than 7 million homes, have been given the green light by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to enter into an agreement for lease with The Crown Estate.
In April, following the completion of a Habitats Regulations Assessment (an assessment of the potential impacts on the most valuable environmental habitats in the UK), The Crown Estate gave notice to the UK and Welsh governments of its intent to proceed with the Offshore Wind Leasing Round 4 plan on the basis of a "derogation."
The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has now provided agreement that The Crown Estate can proceed with the plan, and the Welsh government has not raised any objections to the notice.
The projects could begin to generate clean electricity by the end of the decade.
From the first leasing round in 2001, The Crown Estate has supported the development of an offshore wind market, which has grown to become the largest source of renewable electricity in the UK. On July 5, The Crown Estate also announced plans to develop floating, as opposed to fixed, offshore wind farms in the Celtic Sea, which could bring up to 4 GW of additional capacity.
Business and Energy Secretary the Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP said, “This month saw the price of offshore wind fall to record lows and today’s [July 19] announcement will take us another step closer to increasing current levels of capacity almost fivefold by 2030."
Welsh Government Minister for Climate Change, Julie James MS, added, “As the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency, we welcome our partnership with The Crown Estate to deliver renewable energy projects here in Wales."
The derogation process enables plans or projects to progress if certain tests are met, while ensuring the identified environmental impacts are fully offset through environmental compensatory measures. The use of derogation for Round 4 reflects the complex challenges faced as the marine environment becomes increasingly busy—a challenge that is likely to be faced by most future offshore wind developments.
Recognizing that, The Crown Estate has pioneered a new strategic approach to the Habitats Regulations Assessment, convening key bodies to work through these challenges, balancing environmental considerations with the urgent need to accelerate offshore renewable development.
The approach includes environmental assessment supported by an expert working group of relevant UK statutory marine planning authorities, statutory nature conservation bodies, relevant non-governmental organizations, and the UK and Welsh governments.
The Habitats Regulations Assessment could not rule out significant adverse effects on two protected habitats (the Dogger Bank Special Area of Conservation and the Filey and Flamborough Head Special Protection Area). Consequently, in accordance with the derogation, for the first time The Crown Estate will establish a steering group for each of these two protected sites, comprising government and statutory nature conservation bodies and the relevant project developers to oversee the development and delivery of strategic environmental compensation plans. As projects progress, the steering groups will engage with The Crown Estate’s Habitats Regulations Assessment expert working group to develop detailed individual site compensation plans.