Andrew Weaver, Account Director at Copper, comments on the recent Government decision to approve National Grid’s Hinkley Point C Connection project…

When you switch on your light in the morning, think for a moment about how the electricity gets there. Imagine a bubble of energy that powers your light pulsing through a myriad of wires and cables from its source – maybe a coal power station, a nuclear power station, or even a wind turbine. The majority of us feel safe in the knowledge that every time that light is turned on the bulb will light up. We’re part of a generation that has taken this for granted for a long time, but is now trying to come to terms with the fact that the future is not quite as certain.

Last week National Grid’s Hinkley Point C Connection project was granted consent by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. The decision followed seven years of project development by National Grid, and several stages of public consultation facilitated by us here at Copper.

The 60km electricity connection will connect up the South West’s new energy generators to homes and businesses throughout the national network. Its benefits to the country, not least in facilitating 7% of the country’s energy generation at Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, are clear.

The task over the last seven years has been to balance the wider benefits to society against the local impacts inherent in a nationally significant infrastructure project.

National Grid sought to address local impacts by introducing the new, lower height T-pylon to help reduce visual impact, putting the connection underground through the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, removing existing lower-voltage power lines and making a number of changes to the scheme to address feedback from landowners and local residents. Of course, a new high-voltage overhead power line will still have a visual impact. But when these positive interventions are combined with the national need, the project moves significantly towards acceptability.

The Secretary of State agreed and stated in her decision letter that there is a compelling case for the scheme “…given the national need for the proposed Development and that the potential adverse local impacts of the Development do not outweigh the benefits of the proposed scheme.”

It is reassuring to know that achieving balance is at the heart of the Secretary of State’s decision, protecting host communities against inappropriate development. It is not an easy balance to strike, but we can rest a little easier knowing this project will help to keep the lights on for the foreseeable future.

Copper provided a full suite of communications and consultation services for the Hinkley Point C Connection project since its inception over seven years ago. This meant being at the forefront of developing strategies and tactics to navigate the, then, new national infrastructure planning system, setting the groundwork for future projects and leading by example. We delivered a range of innovative engagement tactics including pop-up drop-in shops where people could call in at their convenience, and question-and-answer sessions led by local MPs and politicians to help ensure impartiality.