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National Grid to speed up connections to the electricity network by “up to ten years”

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National Grid ESO is introducing targeted further reforms to speed up connections to the electricity network.

The system operator has written to all parties looking to connect to ask for updates on progress and project milestones, to help identify non-viable projects and therefore speed up connections for those that are ready.

Through these reforms energy generators that are not progressing and will not meet their connection date will either be able to choose to move backwards or leave the queue altogether, in order to make way for projects that want to connect and are delivering on their milestones.

Said milestones include “common sense points” such as available land, planning permission, finance and actually breaking ground. Any projects whose timelines are impacted by network build delays outside the control of the developers will reportedly not be negatively impacted by these changes.

An international engineering consultancy and a legal firm will support the ESO, to help check and verifying whether projects are progressing towards their contracted connection dates.

It is expected that these reforms will speed up connections by up to ten years.

In addition, the ESO is setting out its support for changes to enable developers to build their own connections into the grid.

The news, which follows National Grid’s recent ‘Great Grid Upgrade’ announcement (as discussed in our recent interview with the Director of Customer Connections, Roisin Quinn) has been welcomed by figures across the clean energy sector, with the vast majority of having highlighted both grid connections and planning as the two biggest challenges facing the decarbonisation of our energy system and Net Zero ambitions.

Stephen McKellar, Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables, said:

“The speed at which renewable energy generation projects can connect to the electricity network is one of the key barriers to net-zero, so anything which helps expediate that process is welcome.

“Scottish Renewables has argued that a fair and proportionate method of dealing with the growing number of projects in the connection queue has been needed for some time, but it is essential that decisions on moving or removing projects is made with the best evidence available to avoid unintended consequences.”

RenewableUK director of future electricity systems Barnaby Wharton said:

“This announcement is a significant step forward, as it will unlock new clean energy capacity faster by letting projects which are ready to connect to the grid move ahead of those that simply aren’t making progress.

“Rather than allowing speculative bids for grid connections to pile up and create the backlog, these reforms mean that inactive or unready schemes will no longer be allowed to block projects which are ready to go live.”

Zoisa North-Bond, CEO of Octopus Energy Generation, commented:

“It’s brilliant to see this announcement as we’ve long suggested quick practical steps like queue-jumping to help deal with huge delays in connecting projects. It’s great that National Grid ESO is also finally opening up competition in this space.

“While it’s a positive step in the right direction, the devil is in the detail. We’re past the point of polite processes. What we need is fresh thinking beyond the concept of ‘a queue’, like concrete dates to implement steps, a firmer stance on prioritising renewables over fossil fuels, and better use of data to show where projects can connect quicker. This will end the gridlock, unlock Britain’s colossal renewables potential and bring down bills for good.”

The systems operator has also published a policy paper setting out how they plan to fulfill their commitment to connect up to 95GW of energy storage into the grid more quickly, which can be read in full here

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