Electricity System Operator announces reforms to speed up grid connections for energy projects

There are 220 projects waiting to connect to the national transmission system before 2026, totalling 40GW

The ESO has today (2 June) written to relevant parties that are attempting to connect projects to the transmission system, asking for progress updates. Responses will be used to inform which projects could connect to the grid more quickly.

The ESO will enable certain projects to “skip the queue” in a bid to get more energy-generating capacity online. The ESO will consider points such as how much finance has been raised for the project, whether land has been purchased and planning permission has been agreed.

Electricity System Operator, is today introducing targeted further reforms, which build on its five-point plan, to speed up connections to the electricity grid.

For energy-generating projects that are unable to showcase those parameters, they will be given a choice of moving backward or leaving the queue to make way for projects that can come online quicker.

The ESO states that the reforms, which were confirmed by the Code Panel body that governs the policies of the energy sector, could see projects connect to the grid up to ten years earlier.

Recent research found that around £200bn of renewables projects are facing waiting times of 15 years to come online, jeopardising plans to create a net-zero power grid by 2035.

By the ESO’s own estimates, there are 220 projects waiting to connect to the national transmission system before 2026, totalling 40GW. This is more than double the peak demand for summer months for all of Great Britain, but only half of these projects currently have planning consent.

The ESO claimed that Great Britain’s electricity system can operate as a zero-carbon grid by 2025. It has since reported that the grid could reach that milestone by as early as 2033, if efforts to scale up renewable energy generation and carbon capture technologies are accelerated. MPs have since warned that the 2035 target is likely to be missed based on current policies.

National Grid’s director of customer connections Roisin Quinn said: “These are positive new steps which bolster recent measures introduced by the ESO, transmission owners and DNOs to help customers and speed up connections. It shows how joined up we are working across the sector in delivering much needed reform to meet Britain’s bold climate goals.

“We continue to collaborate with ESO, industry, government and the regulator to deliver actions and reforms to allow us to make earlier decisions on longer term planning and network investment, supporting faster progress towards a clean and affordable energy system.”

Last year the ESO increased its forecasts for annual electricity demand for 2050 in each of its Future Energy Scenarios (FES), but maintained that reaching net-zero remains achievable and cost-effective.

The Government has moved to remedy these long waiting times through an Action Plan for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs). The plan applies to large projects relating to energy, transport, water, wastewater and waste. The Government has stated that it can enact the plan and speed up delivery while enhancing environmental standards rather than weakening them.

Between 2012 and 2021 there was a 65% increase in the time it took for projects to go through the NSIP process.

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