LONDON The energy secretary said on Tuesday he was surprised to hear about site conflicts between offshore wind farms and oil and gas projects.
Developers building offshore wind farms off the coast could face cancellation of site leases if their projects are deemed to interfere with work related to oil and gas exploration, according to the Crown Estate lease contract.
"I'm surprised if there are conflicts because certainly those sites that we have identified in shallow waters in the North Sea are not ones that have traditionally been of interest to oil and gas," Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said on Tuesday in response to a question referring to a report in the Financial Times.
The contract which developers sign with the Crown Estate, which manages Britain's coastal seabeds, says the Secretary of State could ask the body to terminate offshore site leases if the location was required for oil and gas works.
"It is important that the two industries -- offshore hydrocarbons and wind -- work together, particularly in areas such as Hornsea in the southern North Sea where permissions have been granted for wind farm development in zones already licensed for many years for oil and gas exploration," said David Odling, energy policy manager at industry association Oil & Gas UK.
He added that threatening the construction of offshore wind farms was "furthest from our minds."
The news comes one day after a consultancy firm urged the government to introduce further tax breaks for oil and gas exploration.
Up to four fifth of the North Sea oil and gas could be lost due to the high cost of specialist techniques and drilling equipment, consultants Hannon Westwood said.
(Reporting by Karolin Schaps)