Plans for a billion-pound 87-mile electric pylon network through Lincolnshire will be funded by customer bills across the next four decades — and if critics’ wishes for underground cable alternatives are met, it will mean paying almost six times more.
Dubbed as The Great Grid Upgrade, the proposals by the National Grid are to build an 87-mile, 400,000-volt electricity network from Grimsby to Walpole in Norfolk.
It would be the most extensive overhaul of the grid in generations, if approved, but that is under serious threat given the stern opposition from people at all levels of authority — from residents to Members of Parliament.
Critics of the plan insist that if this must go ahead, alternatives such as subsea use or underground cabling should be taken into consideration.
National Grid responded to these concerns by saying the cost of the project would soar if pylons are not the answer. It predicts costs of around £4.39 billion for a subsea alternative, and £6.54 billion if underground cabling was used.
This is a far cry from the £1.07 billion estimated costs of the pylon project.
But how will this be funded? Well, National Grid is funded by a price control mechanism set by regulator Ofgem. It pays millions upfront for large projects and gradually distributes the costs to customers via energy bills over the next 40 or so years.
National Grid serves nearly eight million customers in the East and West Midlands, meaning this project would cost around £133.75 per customer if pylons are used, compared to £548.75 for subsea and £817.50 for underground cabling, according to National Grid’s cost estimations for the respective projects.
This presents a genuine dilemma for those opposed to the plans, faced with the conundrum of campaigning for preservation of the scenic Lincolnshire countryside, but collectively paying almost £5.5 billion more than if pylons were used.
Lincolnshire’s district council leaders are now taking a stand and calling on the National Grid to reconsider its plans.
In a joint statement issued by the South & East Lincolnshire Councils Partnership, comprising of Boston Borough Council, East Lindsey District Council and South Holland District Council, leaders said environmental protection, the views of residents and the impact of these proposals on Lincolnshire’s tourism industry must be taken into account.
Cllr Anne Dorrian (Independent) of Boston Borough Council, Cllr Craig Leyland (Conservative) of East Lindsey District Council, and Cllr Nick Worth (Conservative) of South Holland District Council said: “We recognise the national importance of major energy projects like this to help improve our infrastructure and tackle the energy crisis we are currently seeing, as well as to create greater grid capacity and investment opportunities in our own sub-region.
“However, the major impact these plans could have on our communities and environment cannot be ignored, and we are pleased to see consultation taking place in these early stages to receive feedback before any further steps are taken.
“We hope that we can continue to be actively involved in any future plans, and that all possible alternative options and views are considered, including the possibility of underground installation.
“The greater cost of this compared to overhead pylons must be weighed by National Grid against the need to protect our environment, the amenity of our residents and communities, and the devastating impact the proposals threaten to have on a £500 million local tourism industry.”
A petition set up by local resident Tabitha Siddorn, 21, has called for the project to be halted in a bid to “protect what makes Lincolnshire unique.” The change.org petition has over 3,000 signatures in the space of three weeks, at the time of reporting.
Tabitha previously explained that this proposal is “about control and profit” rather than cost of the project itself, as she remains unconvinced that “this is the best way” to upgrade infrastructure.
A spokesperson for National Grid said: “The upgrade is required to support the UK’s net zero target by reinforcing the electricity transmission network in Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, and facilitate the connection of planned offshore wind generation, battery storage and solar, interconnectors with other countries and subsea links to Scotland, allowing clean energy to be carried on the network.”
National Grid’s first round of consultation invites stakeholders and local people to give their views, and runs until March 13.