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Sunak allows oil and gas exploration at offshore wind sites



Floating windfarms could be built off the coasts of Cornwall and Pembrokeshire after the Queen’s property manager identified a clutch of sites in the Celtic Sea that could host them.

In a major move likely to spark controversy, the government is poised to allow fossil fuel companies to conduct oil and gas exploration under offshore wind energy sites for the first time.

The announcement, scheduled for Friday, has drawn criticism from environmentalists, who claim it represents a deviation from the climate agenda.

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), responsible for regulating oil and gas production in the North Sea, will unveil plans to grant permits to around 30 companies for hydrocarbon exploration at sites identified for future offshore wind farms.

While the decision has raised concerns among environmentalists, it could provide a political boost to Prime Minister Sunak amid expected local election losses. However, critics including former net zero tsar Chris Skidmore are condemning the move as damaging to the UK’s climate record and calling for more investment in renewables.

It is notable that the exploration itself will not involve drilling, with companies mainly using data to assess profitability. Proponents argue that if sites beneath wind farms are deemed suitable for production, oil and gas platforms can use wind turbine energy to reduce emissions. Nevertheless, experts warn that emissions from burning extracted fuels will outweigh savings in the extraction processes, potentially undermining investor confidence in the green energy sector.

Sunak has been criticized for policy changes including delaying the end of petrol and diesel car sales and approving the Rosebank oilfield project. While the government justifies these actions as attempts to reduce energy costs and increase security, critics see them as divisive tactics ahead of the upcoming general election.

The move marks a significant shift in oil and gas licensing in the North Sea as it opens up areas previously leased to offshore wind companies. Despite government claims about energy security and economic growth, renewable energy advocates emphasize the importance of prioritizing offshore wind energy over fossil fuels for both environmental and economic reasons.

As the energy landscape evolves, debates over the balance between fossil fuels and renewables are likely to intensify, with implications for the UK’s climate targets and economic priorities.