Thursday, June 20, 2024

National Grid’s £31bn Project to Install Thousands of High-Voltage Pylons Across Britain

National Grid plans to install up to 6,000 electricity pylons across the English countryside as part of a £31 billion investment to upgrade the nation’s transmission networks.

This extensive project aims to prepare the UK for a doubling of electricity demand over the next 25 years, driven by the shift to renewable energy and increased use of electric vehicles and heat pumps.

John Pettigrew, CEO of National Grid, explained that the project will involve 1,000 miles of new overhead lines, connecting the pylons, and is essential for the nation’s move away from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy sources like wind farms and nuclear power.

To fund this overhaul, National Grid will charge households an estimated “less than £10” annually and plans to raise £6.8 billion through a new share issue. Additionally, they will sell assets including the Grain liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, Europe’s largest, to support the network expansion.

“We’re announcing a transformational step up in our energy infrastructure investment,” said Pettigrew. “It is at a scale that I think is fair to say is unprecedented, and it will make National Grid one of the biggest investors in the energy transition in the FTSE 100 list of companies.”

National Grid currently manages the high-voltage electricity transmission network for England and Wales, comprising 4,400 miles of overhead cable on 22,000 pylons. The upgrade will include laying 2,400 miles of high-voltage cables offshore to carry power from wind farms and along coastlines, and reinforcing 680 miles of existing overhead lines with larger pylons.

The initiative follows a reported 15% fall in National Grid’s profits to just over £3 billion for the year ending in March. The company also plans to invest an additional £29 billion in the US, bringing its total investment over five years to £60 billion, nearly double the previous five years’ investment. As part of these efforts, National Grid will sell its US onshore renewables business, National Grid Renewables, to raise funds.

The project is complemented by National Grid’s existing 17 major onshore and offshore transmission projects in the UK and its $4 billion ‘Upstate Upgrade’ in New York’s electricity transmission network. Recent developments include 116 new pylons to connect the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, expected to start generating after 2028.

In Scotland, similar expansions are managed by SSE in northern regions, highlands, and islands, and by SP Energy Networks in central and southern regions.

Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho announced plans to cut consumer energy costs, including a review of standing charges on energy bills and a crackdown on price comparison sites. She also pledged to strengthen the price cap and ensure suppliers repair or replace the estimated two to three million failed smart meters.

Coutinho stated: “Energy bills are at their lowest in two years, now we’re telling suppliers to put consumers first and bring real competition back to the market – cutting bills further and improving customer service. Only the Conservatives have a clear plan for a secure future where we reach net zero without punishing families with extra costs.”

A Labour spokesman responded critically, saying, “This is not a plan – this is a call for evidence, a set of options, two consultations, a copy and paste job from an old letter, and lots of wishful thinking. The Conservatives will never end the cost of living crisis – only Labour has a plan to cut bills and make Britain energy independent.”