Overhead power cables often have a visually negative impact on the outstanding landscapes of the AONB. In most locations cables are frequently seen against a backdrop of the sea and sky due to the sweeping and undulating nature of many of the 12 AONB sections. This increases their impact on the landscape and makes them extremely intrusive especially in the iconic areas of the AONB.
The electricity Regulator Ofgem has a range of statutory duties, which include having regard to the purposes of National Parks, The Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as well as having regard to conserving biodiversity. Ofgem applies these statutory duties through the price controls that regulate the monopoly network companies. The current RIIO price control model (Revenue = Innovation + Incentives + Outputs) aims to deliver consumer benefits by providing companies with strong incentives to meet the challenge of delivering a sustainable energy sector at the most efficient cost. A voluntary undergrounding scheme for distribution network operators allows funding for the undergrounding of existing overhead lines in AONBs and National Parks. The current price control, RIIO-ED1 has an undergrounding budget of £104m.
Western Power Distribution has a business plan commitment to participate in Ofgem’s RIIO-ED1 and has allocated funding over 8 years (2015-23) for high quality undergrounding schemes in as many AONBs and National Parks in the south west region as feasible for works. Selected schemes will need to demonstrate they meet iconic status of landscape, good community support and value for money.
Building on an initial scheme at St Mawes, the Cornwall AONB Partnership has been successful in securing significant funding to underground 3 km of intrusive overhead electricity cabling in sensitive locations on the coast above St Agnes and the coast around Zennor. This is part of the electricity regulator Ofgem’s programme for Visual Impact Provision, which seeks to reduce the impact of the activities of electricity providers within protected landscapes. The Cornwall AONB unit are delighted to get two bids through under the programme and are looking forward to working with Western Power Distribution, Zennor Parish Council and the National Trust to delivering the schemes in 2019/20 and making a real difference to Natural Beauty and Visual Amenity in some of the AONB’s most iconic landscapes.
Since late 2017 we have been working with partners including the National Trust on an undergrounding scheme at Trevose that will come forward for delivery after Zennor and St Agnes.