New offshore network framework: forward planning and new competition models

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero has set out a new framework for managing offshore networks that will see more advanced planning and a consistent competitive regime across offshore and onshore networks.
The Department says “Although the UK has the greatest offshore wind resource in Europe, seafloor capacity is finite and there are increasing pressures on the marine environment. With some scenarios suggesting that the UK could need more than 100GW by 2050, we will need to ensure that the use of this resource is planned appropriately to maximise its value and reduce the environmental and community impacts”.
The Holistic Network Design (HND) for onshore lines, published in June 2022, “marked a significant shift towards a more centrally designed, coordinated network”, said DESNZ and offshore too there woukd be a more integrated approach to leasing areas for offshore wind and transmission infrastructure.
DESNZ had three main recommendations, each with key actions:

Recommendation 1: DESNZ will work with project partners to develop options for a strategic approach for the deployment of offshore wind, interconnectors and multipurpose interconnectors that evolves over time as roles and responsibilities change.
It will work with devolved administrations to consider options for setting a clear long-term view of the volume of offshore wind and interconnectors, including options for where this responsibility may lie in future, with a holistic and improved approach to prioritising and protecting the marine environment that would allow seabed leasing to be undertaken in a more strategic way.
This should allow network planning to take account of the overall ambition for offshore wind and consider the electricity transmission network earlier in the process so the electricity system operator (ESO) and The Crown Estate, Crown Estate Scotland and Marine Scotland will work together to incorporate network considerations in the seabed leasing processes.
The ESO will better consider cumulative impacts from electricity network infrastructure in centralised strategic network planning (CSNP) to ensure economic and efficient delivery of network infrastructure.
Environmental assessments will be conducted ahead of the designation of seabed leasing areas. A more integrated approach will enable protected and sensitive areas to be considered earlier in the process, help with the consideration of cumulative impacts, reduce risks associated with planning approvals, and reduce the time between seabed leasing and delivery.

Recommendation 2 Adopt delivery models that maximise efficiency in terms of cost and risk.
DESNZ will work with Ofgem to consider the appropriate delivery model(s) to maximise consumer benefits from competition while giving the right incentives for innovation and efficient deployment of transmission.
Ofgem and DESNZ will align onshore and offshore competition regimes as far as possible to streamline arrangements and maximise the efficiency of competition. DESNZ says the early-stage competition model will incentivising innovative network design and technology choices and it is “likely to be particularly beneficial for more complex offshore reinforcements”.

Recommendation 3
Consider the timing of transmission design and delivery.
Ofgem should undertake further analysis on the optimum timing of detailed design and delivery of transmission infrastructure to determine changes required for a future framework delivery model to reduce the risk of investing ahead of need.

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