The UK has been sent an alarming warning over its net zero plans, which includes a plot to build more undersea cables, as “terrorist action” against this critical infrastructure has now become a “reality”, an expert has claimed. As Britain scrambles to reach net zero emissions by 2050, National Grid has stressed that hitting this target will require hundreds of miles of new cables and pylons to be built across the UK.
But there are already plans in place for the UK to rapidly ramp up its capacity, including a project aimed at extending a substation at Norwich that will connect to Equinor and Hornsea offshore wind farms in the North Sea and a substation in Ipswich.
While it may appear evident that scaling up the UK’s renewable capacity is crucial for hitting its climate targets, vital for the green transition as the world scrambles to wean itself off fossil fuels to prevent climate catastrophe, an expert has raised the alarm over security concerns that come with it.
Harry Buckle, a security expert, has written several books such as Just One Day which he says highlight the real vulnerability of critical energy infrastructure such as subsea cables.
He told Express.co.uk: “For the North Sea plans, there is not only terrorist and enemy vulnerability but also World War II live ammunition (mega bombs included) that has been dumped in the North Sea and Baltic Sea.
“There’s a massive and already very stressed business in subsea bomb disposal out there. Companies buy ‘AA style breakdown insurance’ guaranteeing them quick service from ‘on call bomb disposal teams.
“The problem being scouring of tides and currents washes more and more of these deadly around to lodge by cables and pipelines.” His stark words come after several mysterious incidents occurred regarding critical energy and internet cables last month.
Following the suspected “sabotage” of Russia’s Baltic Sea Nord Stream pipelines, which Western officials largely believe was conducted by Vladimir Putin, two cables were also reportedly cut near the Shetland Isles off the coast of Scotland, although the authorities said this was most likely to have been accidentally caused by a fishing vessel.
But in the same week, another cable was severed across three parts of the line in France, which , Zscaler CEO Jay Chaudhry has claimed was an “act of vandalism”.
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Brandon Weichert, a geopolitical analyst and former Congressional staff member, has also exclusively told Express.co.uk that Britain’s existing energy and internet infrastructure is already vulnerable enough as it is.
And he warned that Defence Secretary Ben Wallace’s plan to send “specialist ships” to patrol the North Sea to protect these cables may not be sufficient.
He said: “I’ve urged nations like Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, and others to cooperatively invest in enhancing their naval capabilities to be able to better defend the local waters from obvious Russian aggression. But the upside with Britain is that their navy is highly capable and two ships are better than none.
“London is fixated on trying to deploy their naval forces to faraway places like the Indo-Pacific and off the coast of Argentina to defend the Falklands, and these are understandable strategic goals, but London should fixate much more on the local waters near Britain and Europe until further notice and leave the farther afield areas to the Americans.”
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But with even more infrastructure added into the mix, Mr Buckle believes the Royal Navy will have an even bigger task on its hands. He said that “eight percent of our power is now also set to come from HVDC subsea cables some 3,500 miles from Morocco”, warning this project is “very much at risk”.
“The project is not a dreamer and it is under way right now, and that is only the start as the Morocco supply is not subject to variations in wind farm supply.
“But of course, this long distance is way more vulnerable to terrorist or enemy action than the short(ish) runs around the North Sea.”
Mr Buckle is here referring to the Xlinks project, which involves four cables, each 3,800km long, that form the twin 1.8GW HVDC subsea cable system connecting a Moroccan energy site to a grid location in Devon.
He has previously told Express.co.uk: “To patrol and secure both cable and pipeline installations needs not only a Naval surface to patrol to keep watch for miscreant ships intent on sabotage but also one with some subsea capability to properly investigate underwater and possibly deal with explosives or mines.”