From Sizewell C to LionLink: The impact of an energy revolution in East Anglia

The East Anglian coast is an important generator of renewable energy.

As the move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy gathers pace, more communities are discovering that the transition comes at a price.

The UK's ageing energy infrastructure needs to be updated and new networks need to be built - and this is having an impact throughout the countryside and rural towns and villages.

East Anglia already produces 60% of the country's offshore wind power, and with projects including East Anglia Three under construction, this is set to grow.

But while this growing industry brings jobs and investment, it is also proving a dilemma for counties like Suffolk, which is currently facing four major energy projects.

One of these is the Sizewell C nuclear power station, which began the early stages of construction in January.

Two other projects are part of what National Grid calls The Great Grid Upgrade - an overhaul of its network of cables, pylons, and infrastructure to carry more renewable energy.

Because the East Anglian coast is becoming a hub for green energy, the coastal counties - and in particular Suffolk - are playing a major role in connecting it to the wider grid.

The National Grid schemes which will impact Suffolk are LionLink, Sea Link and a new route of pylons from Norwich to Tilbury, the latter two being part of the Great Grid Upgrade.

The shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, who recently visited the Suffolk coast, suggested local people who host nationally significant infrastructure should be "compensated" with lower energy bills.

Meanwhile, Suffolk Council Council has objected to the projects, saying they will cause irreversible damage to important landscapes.

The council also argues that the impact could be reduced if all the projects shared infrastructure.

Richard Rout, the deputy leader of the council, said: “The absence of coordination between the Sea Link and LionLink projects will, if they are consented, result in over 10 miles of some of the most sensitive and important landscapes in the UK being dug up to create more trenches for more cabling.

“This additional and unnecessary destruction of the Suffolk countryside and natural environment could be wholly avoided, if there was project coordination – something we have been calling for, for years."

What are the different energy projects in Suffolk?

  • LionLink

Map showing where the LionLink project will come ashore at Southwold and Walberswick in Suffolk. Credit: National Grid / LionLink

A subsea power line connecting offshore wind farms between the UK and the Netherlands.

It is a joint project between National Grid and Dutch operator TenneT, enabling the sharing of 1.8GW of green energy.

The developers say it will improve energy security, reduce carbon emissions and power around 2.5 million UK homes.

Following a consultation National Grid has revealed the proposed cables will come ashore on the Suffolk coast, at Southwold and Walberswick.

The proposals also include a converter station at Saxmundham and a substation at Friston.

A statutory public consultation on LionLink will be held in 2025.

  • Sea Link

Map showing where the proposed Sea Link cables will come ashore near Aldeburgh. Credit: National Grid / Sea Link

A largely offshore cable carrying nuclear and wind energy from Suffolk to Kent.

It will deliver low-carbon electricity from where it is generated in East Anglia to the south-east of England.

The proposal is for the 145km cable to make landfall on the Suffolk coast between Aldeburgh and Thorpeness.

Underground cables would then carry the power to the proposed converter station at Saxmundham and substation at Friston.

A consultation into Sea Link closed in January and the feedback is now being considered.

  • Norwich to Tilbury

Map showing the route of the proposed Norwich to Tilbury pylon line through Suffolk (Proposed route in black, existing pylons in blue). Credit: National Grid / Norwich to Tilbury

A line of new pylons between existing substations at Norwich, Bramford in Suffolk, and Tilbury in Essex.

The proposal includes mainly overhead power lines with some underground cables at the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The total length of the line would be 183km, supported by 520 pylons.

A consultation was held in 2023 and a statutory consultation in due to be held in 2024.

  • Sizewell C

An image of what the new Sizewell C nuclear power station will look like. Credit: Sizewell C

A new nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast generating low-carbon electricity for around 60 years.

A development consent order for the plant was triggered in January 2024, meaning that work could begin building supporting infrastructure such as roads ahead of construction.

The next stage of the project, the so-called final investment decision, could be announced later in 2024.

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