The UK has plans to rapidly scale up its offshore wind capacity to help slash its reliance on gas and race to net zero as energy bills soar. But the Conservative Party has been warned of a major obstacle that could throw a spanner in the works as it scrambles to reach its target of generating 50 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.
Ryan Prophet, SafeLane’s Director of Marine Services warned explained that this could “damage equipment” and “put people’s lives at risk”.
He told Express.co.uk: “You’ve got some serious high-risk areas in the North Sea.
“There are educated guesses that there are more than 100-200,000 tonnes of munitions that were dumped into the North Sea after WWII.
“The main reason for that was because it seemed to be the most efficient and cheapest method to remove the ordinance rather than the expensive cost and disposal fees that would usually need to be paid, without the thought that windfarms would be placed here 80 years later.
“If you have got a high-risk area of UXO, if you go into some form of construction where you are going to be interfering with the seabed, there is a risk of detonation.
“For example, if you are laying a cable in an area with multiple UXO, there is a very high risk that you are going interact with the UXO – that could damage equipment but it could also put people’s lives at risk.
“The worst thing that happens with munitions when they explode underwater is that they create an air bubble and having an air bubble under any sort of vessel is that they can cause huge amounts of damage.”
But there are ways around this that can help energy firms work around this issue, providing a glimmer of hope for the Government’s net zero plans.
“There has been great developments in how we deal with UXO. We do these surveys for say a wind farm provider that isolates an area and wants to put a wind farm in a particular area, they can do a survey and see what is there. If they find an area that they think is covered in munitions, then they will probably rethink using that area. They will probably find another area or relocate.
“We can then go in and investigate UXO, we can remove them and dispose of them. This can all be done safely and as environmentally conscious as possible.”
This is why Mr Prophet explained that the “obstacle” to rolling out these green energy projects are more of a “fault from the financial stage”.
This comes as Rishi Sunak, who is battling with Liz Truss to become the next Prime Minister, signalled his support for offshore wind.
But the former Chancellor was accused of “economic illiteracy” for pledging to make it harder to build onshore windfarms in England.
Mr Sunak said: “Wind energy will be an important part of our strategy, but I want to reassure communities that as Prime Minister I would scrap plans to relax the ban on onshore wind in England, instead focusing on building more turbines offshore.”
Ed Miliband, the shadow climate change secretary, lashed out at Mr Sunak for this plan.
He said: “As Britain boils in an unprecedented heatwave, it is economic illiteracy and unilateral economic disarmament in the fight against the climate crisis that Rishi Sunak wants to keep the ban on onshore wind.”
Mr Sunak also U-turned on his original position after falling behind Ms Truss in the polls when he announced he would scrap the green VAT levy on energy bills to save consumers £160.
But this levy is used to fund projects like offshore wind and other renewable initiatives, and with UXO proving to be another obstacle, the cost of net zero could increase further.
While it is largely agreed among climate scientists that it is crucial the UK presses ahead with its legally binding net zero target to avert climate catastrophe, critics say the Government should “pause for breath before running further and faster to a net zero electoral disaster based upon uncosted fairytales”. This comment came from Craig Mackinlay, who chairs the Net Zero Scrutiny Group.
He told The Times back in August 2021: “I am not a climate-change denier. I’m concerned that our electors of the future will be huddling round their heat-pump radiators and paying off the debt on an electric vehicle they never wanted either as they look wistfully at China, Indonesia and other nations still enjoying cheap energy from some of the dirtiest fossil fuels.”