The government has delayed the planning process for a major new windfarm off the Norfolk coast because of the coronavirus lockdown, with its developer to warning the move could “send the wrong signal” to the renewables industry.
The Swedish energy company Vattenfall said delaying a decision on the 1.8GW Norfolk Boreas windfarm by up to five months was “regrettable” and might call Britain’s green ambitions into question.
The government’s planning authority said the pandemic has meant several hearings have been delayed, and a number of interested parties have been unable to participate.
The business secretary, Alok Sharma, agreed earlier this week to allow the planning inspectorate to extend its deadline for a decision until 12 October, and called on the authority to “make best efforts” to complete the process as soon as possible.
The inspectorate promised to hold “virtual events” to allow interested parties to participate remotely.
Graham Davey, the project manager for the Norfolk Boreas windfarm, said: “While it’s understandable that some delay to the examination process is inevitable due to the Covid-19 restrictions, adding up to five months to the timetable is regrettable.” .
Vattenfall plans to build the Norfolk Boreas alongside a twin windfarm project, the Norfolk Vanguard, to add 3.6 GW of clean energy capacity to its UK renewables portfolio, enough to power 3.9m UK homes.
“In our view, all of the substantive issues in the process have already been resolved. Yet we’re now in a position where potentially the final consent decision may not be known until April next year,” Davey said.
“Delays on this scale influence plans and investment decisions, send the wrong signal to the offshore wind sector as a whole, and call into question Britain’s commitment to acting quickly to reduce emissions.”
The International Energy Agency said global renewable energy growth is likely to slow this year for the first time in 20 years, unless governments make decisions in the next months which support renewable energy to boost economics growth while tackling the climate crisis.
The International Renewable Energy Agency said last month that globally, renewable energy could power an economic recovery from Covid-19 by spurring GDP gains of almost $100tn (£80tn) between now and 2050, compared with business as usual.