What’s the size of 31 Lake Windermeres, home to 165 steel-and-fibreglass behemoths each taller than the Monument, and 70-odd miles from Grimsby? If your answer was the Hornsea 2 wind farm, ten points to you. The world’s largest offshore wind farm became fully operational yesterday, set to power around 1.4m homes – combined with Hornsea 1, next door, that number climbs to 2.5m British homes.
This is absurdly good news, and it has been brought to bear by a combination of sensible planning decisions on behalf of local and national government and a bucketload of private cash. It’s the sort of thing we should look at as a national success story – but it’s easier to ignore so-called NIMBYs and judicial reviews when you’re building in the North Sea.
If we could expand that model, then Britain could perhaps build some more of the infrastructure that might just power us out of our current trajectory towards a slow-growth, ageing country without resorting to an infrastructure-heavy benign dictatorship.
To do that the City would need the ability to invest, and it is to the probable next Prime Minister Liz Truss’s credit that in speaking with City A.M. yesterday she brought up changes to Solvency II regulations unbidden. Promisingly, she also spoke of reinvigorating the Square Mile’s ability to raise cash for potentially transformative research.
None of Britain’s problems – be they going green, securing energy supply, delivering growth across the country or upgrading infrastructure – can be solved without the Square Mile’s financial support. But that needs to be earned: if it is to be Truss, she will have a short window to earn it. If she tackles the red tape that holds back boring but big projects and signs off on the more exciting, smaller projects that make investors eyes light up, perhaps Truss – who was probably not the City’s favoured candidate at the start of this race – may surprise on the upside.