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National Grid: £58bn of upgrades to UK’s electricity network needed to hit 2035 decarbonisation targets

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The National Grid’s electricity system operator (ESO) has today called for a £58bn investment in the UK’s electricity network in order to support government plans to fully decarbonise the power system by 2035.

The new ‘Beyond 2030‘ plans recommend the introduction of a “high-capacity electrical spine” involving 1,000 miles of onshore power lines and 4,000 miles of undersea cables in order to transfer clean energy from where it’s generated on and offshore to where it’s used by households and businesses across the country. 

The £58bn project, reportedly the largest build of its kind for seven decades, would be carried out between 2030 and 2035, facilitating the connection of an additional 21GW of primarily offshore wind power, and creating 20,000 jobs in the process, subject to a “robust planning process”. 

The ESO highlighted that 86GW of offshore wind (up from the current 14GW) will be required, in addition to a similar amount from onshore wind and solar, to support UK electricity demand, expected to rise by 64% by 2035, stating that “Great Britain is about to embark upon the biggest change to the electricity network since the high voltage transmission grid was established back in the 1950s”, and calling for “swift and co-ordinated” action, without which the country risks missing its’ climate related targets.

The proposed investment would add up to £30 a year to customer bills, but the report underlined that the integration of a greater amount of home grown, clean energy would ultimately provide cheaper electricity for consumers, by reducing our reliance on imported fossil fuels – a primary reason for the recent spike in energy prices, which will always be subject to volatility.

The expansion of new grid infrastructure can often be met with opposition from local groups, concerned by the impact these can have on the countryside and areas of outstanding natural beauty. The Government has recently suggested that communities impacted by new grid infrastructure should be given “substantial” financial incentives to win local support.

Responding to the blueprint, Stephen McKellar, Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables, said:

“With electricity demand set to increase by 64% over the next decade, we urgently need to upgrade our electricity transmission infrastructure if we are to maximise Scotland’s potential as a renewable energy powerhouse.

“With consumers and businesses facing increased energy bills driven by our reliance on imported gas, there is a pressing need to increase access to cheap, popular renewable energy, which is precisely what these crucial upgrades to our decades-old electricity network infrastructure will provide.

“Transforming the UK’s electricity grid infrastructure will require meaningful conversations with the people of Scotland on what a future electricity network will look like and why it is essential for our net-zero energy targets. We urge both the UK and Scottish Governments to work with industry to engage closely with the public and help industry to explain to the public why grid infrastructure is vital to cut bills and drive economic development in the transition to a clean energy system.”

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