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How National Grid is Looking to Solve the Grid Connection Backlog






The growing concerns over waiting periods for grid connection works that many renewable energy and storage projects face has drawn a lot of attention in recent months. With new green generation and storage both playing a key role in the UK’s energy transition, as well as the Government’s strategy to increase the UK’s energy independence, the huge wait times for new developments to be connected has become a major obstacle. A waiting period of between 10 and 15 years looked set to become the typical average. 

At the start of May, it was reported that around 200GW of electricity projects were waiting on a grid connection. On one hand, the scale of this pipeline shows how much potential there is in the UK for a rapid transition to a renewable-energy based system. 200GW represents enough new capacity to power the UK’s 25 million homes six times over.  

On the other, it also highlights the scale of the challenge when it comes to getting all these projects connected in a timely manner. This is made more complex by the fact that in most cases, it isn’t simply a case of connecting a site to the grid, but typically requires work to reinforce distribution networks that are already constrained and were never designed to handle huge amounts of distributed generation. 

After energy regulator Ofgem stepped in to call the delays ‘unacceptable’, a new initiative has been laid out to try and reduce the backlog and reduce waiting times that risk huge amounts of renewable generation and storage projects falling through. This was confirmed last week by National Grid ESO, responsible for operating the UK’s electricity system. 

National Grid identified a key issue in that many of the projects that were clogging up the queue for connections were progressing slowly or had put in a speculative application for connection works under the theory that if the queue is growing so rapidly, it is better to secure a spot in it sooner rather than later. Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley was scathing in his criticism of such ‘zombie’ energy projects, calling them ‘stalled, unviable and often highly speculative’. 

Under new proposals, ESO will require more information from applicants on progress and key project milestones, allowing non-viable projects to be identified and moved back or even removed from the queue. ESO has indicated that this new process could cut wait times by up to 10 years, illustrating the scale of the problem it believes the current system has with unviable projects. 

Whether this overhauled process works as intended remains to be seen, and while many in the energy industry remain cautiously optimistic, there has already been some opposition to the plans. Rather than calling into question the proposals themselves, these have tended to focus on the need for an even firmer stance on assessing projects and pulling them forwards or back in the queue to ensure that viable projects can be connected quickly and start contributing to the UK’s energy mix. 

For businesses that may be waiting on grid connection works for new sites, or to introduce new infrastructure to existing ones, the shakeup from ESO should hopefully be beneficial. Businesses in this situation will no doubt have been extremely concerned by headlines suggesting wait times well over a decade, but if what National Grid have reported is accurate, in practice a huge chunk of that delay was likely to be caused by projects that probably shouldn’t have been in the queue anyway. 

Find out how BESS and intelligent energy management can be used to avoid costly grid connection works

Grid Constraints

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