UK energy producers told to accelerate plans or forfeit their place in grid lineup

Politicians cautioned that the government’s goal of introducing 70GW of solar by 2035 may not be achieved if connection delays persist.

The electricity system operator in Britain is demanding that energy developers either press ahead with their proposed projects or be removed from the waiting line for a grid connection as they strive to manage the growing backlog of postponed renewable energy initiatives.

It is believed that the ultimatum will help reduce the current 10-15 year wait for a grid connection, which is preventing billions of pounds from being invested in green energy and could potentially prevent the UK from achieving its climate objectives.

National Grid, the owner of the FTSE 100 energy firm, has been the subject of strong reproof due to the complications with the green energy gridlock. However, they have promised that the implementation of their new reforms could reduce the wait time by as much as ten years.

The message to developers was clear: they must “advance, return to or vacate their position in the energy line” for the sake of projects prepared to produce clean electricity for the grid. Therefore, those who have submitted an application for a connection must show that their projects are progressing, or they might forfeit their spot in the queue.

The corporation has hired a legal practice to help shift the stalled developers out of the way in order to create room for feasible initiatives. Additionally, it is working with the governing body to adjust current regulations that enable developers to construct their own grid connections.

Amid the rising discontent within Britain’s renewable energy sector about the National Grid’s administration of the connection line-up, reforms have been set in motion. Last month, parliamentarians revealed that companies in the UK are being confronted by waits of up to 15 years to gain access to solar energy systems, which could impede the government’s objective to install 70GW of solar by 2035.

Jonathan Brearley, the head of Ofgem (the energy regulator), expressed his outrage in May of 2023 at the inordinate delays in connecting low-carbon projects to the grid. He blamed the backlog on a number of stalled, impracticable, and highly speculative ‘zombie’ projects that were obstructing ready-to-go solar, wind, and other renewable schemes.

It has been reported by the system operator that 220 projects are planned to be connected to the national transmission system by 2026, and out of these, only half have received the necessary permits. Additionally, some of these projects have extended their scheduled commencement date by up to 14 years.

Barnaby Wharton, from Renewable UK, expressed that delays with grid connections are hindering investments of £15bn in offshore wind over the course of this decade. He argued that this is a time when energy security needs to be strengthened swiftly and cost-effective electricity needs to be provided to consumers to tackle the cost of living emergency.

Wharton suggested that, with the proposed changes, projects that are prepared to be connected to the grid would be able to be advanced before those that are “not advancing”. The result, they said, would be to “speed up the addition of new clean energy capacity”.

Previously, National Grid only had to establish links to the occasional, generally large, power plants. However, the rise in popularity of green energy has resulted in multiple grid connection requests from hundreds of minor renewable energy initiatives.

It is anticipated that the expansion of renewable energy in the UK will accelerate in order to fulfill the projected 50% increase in electricity needs by 2035.

The government has announced their intention to construct sufficient offshore wind turbines by 2030 in order to supply all households in the UK with energy. Additionally, a prohibition of onshore wind farms in England will be lifted. Furthermore, the UK plans to augment the amount of subsea cables that interface with foreign nations.

North-Bond, the head of Octopus Energy Generation, commented that the recent grid reforms are a beneficial move, but cautioned that “the details need to be examined carefully”.

The notion of a queue has been exhausted; what is needed now is new ideas, such as establishing specific dates for making progress, taking a stronger stance against fossil fuels and employing data to demonstrate where projects can be efficiently connected. This, according to her, would end the stalemate, bring out the massive renewables capabilities of Britain and reduce bills in the long term.