The UK government’s plan to build thousands of new off-shore wind turbines along the British coast are in doubt after energy regulators announced that wind farm companies do not have the right to force their way onto people’s land to lay cables.
The Times reports that regulators Ofgem refused to approve a request for “compulsory rights of entry” by energy firm RWE, who wanted to lay cables across private land in order to connect their turbines to the national grid. The ruling represents a victory for landowners who object to their land being dug up by energy firms.
RWE is planning to build 288 turbines off the coast of Lincolnshire and had asked several landowners for permission to dig up their land to lay the cables, but after five refused, they applied for consent to enter the land anyway using what they believed to be a right under the Electricity Act 1989.
Ofgem has now told RWE and the landowners that it is “minded to refuse consent” because the act only grants the right in order to construct and extend a generating station. Laying cables onshore cannot be described as extending the wind turbines, it argued.
The landowners had argued that digging up the ground could permanently affect drainage systems, increasing the risk of flooding. They also feared their fields could be devalued as there would have to be inspection areas every 750 metres (0.5 miles) along the cables.
John Constable of the Renewable Energy Foundation said: “This important case will give courage to landowners faced with unpopular offshore wind connection schemes, perhaps putting the brakes on the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s ambitions for this technology.”
Speaking for the landowners, Melvin Grosvenor said that RWE has attempted to bully them into accepting the cable, making it clear they would force their way onto their land if they didn’t. Grosvenor said: “This is a victory for the little people who refused to give in to serious bullying tactics.”