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Ex-head of Royal Navy warns of risk to Britain's critical power infrastructure


The ex-head of the Royal Navy, Admiral Lord West, has recently issued a stark warning about the safety of Britain’s critical electrical and data cables which lie on the bed of the North Sea. Recent Russian submarine activity in UK waters, and the tendency of Russian forces to undertake clandestine technological attacks, have raised suspicions that the UK’s energy security is under threat.

Damage to electrical and data cables can take weeks to repair, at the cost of billions. There have been fears since at least 2015 that Russia would target undersea cables, disrupting communication lines, internet access, and financial transactions occurring across the world. Between 2015 and 2020, UK offshore wind capacity doubled from 5.1GW to 10.4GW, bringing with it a huge increase in the scale of undersea infrastructure required to transport the electricity back to the mainland.

In 2017, then-MP Rishi Sunak warned that: “Short of nuclear or biological warfare, it is difficult to think of a threat that could be more justifiably described as existential than that posed by the catastrophic failure of undersea cable networks as a result of hostile action.”

The subject of energy security has been a central focus for the UK government since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, which sent oil and gas prices spiralling upwards. To combat energy security fears, Admiral Lord West argues that the UK should invest heavily into onshore wind, which by its very nature is a protected technology due to it being situated within a country’s borders. He said: “It’s much harder for any hostile power to target onshore wind.”

Rod Wood, Managing Director of Community Windpower, concurs with these comments from Admiral Lord West, saying: “The destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines starkly demonstrates how exposed subsea infrastructure assets can be. As Lord West highlights, geopolitical risks must now be front and centre of energy policy.”

Mr Wood continues by saying: “The Government needs to lift the onshore wind planning moratorium in England and axe the windfall tax on new solar and wind generation to deliver safe and secure home-grown energy supplies.”

Read the full article, published on the 22nd May 2023, here:

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