National Grid forges partnership to tackle UK’s renewables supply chain and skills barriers

The partnership comes as the demand for products, services and skills continues to rise on a global scale.

National Grid’s Great Grid Partnership will initially focus on network design and construction work required by the end of the decade for nine Accelerated Strategic Transmission Investment (ASTI) projects, with an aim to reduce reliance on fossil fuels by connecting 50 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind power by 2030.

These projects include critical transmission routes like Norwich to Tilbury North and South, North Humber to High Marnham, Grimsby to Walpole, Chesterfield to Willington, Brinsworth to High Marnham, Tilbury to Grain and Tilbury to Kingsnorth, as well as cable replacement and circuit enhancement projects from Pentir to Trawsfynydd.

The partnership consists of two design and consenting service partners: AECOM Arup and WSP, alongside five construction partners: Laing O’Rourke, Morgan Sindall Infrastructure, Morrison Energy Services, Murphy and Omexom / Taylor Woodrow (OTW).

National Grid’s strategic infrastructure president Carl Trowell said: “Today’s announcement is another significant and exciting milestone in the delivery of The Great Grid Upgrade – the largest overhaul of the electricity grid in decades.

“By sharing best practice and collaborating across nine of our critical major ASTI infrastructure projects, we will set the gold-standard for future infrastructure projects in terms of driving innovation, shoring up capacity across the skills base, operating responsibly and sustainably and ultimately in getting the best value for consumers.”

The partnership comes as the demand for products, services and skills continues to rise on a global scale as countries ramp up investment in the energy transition.

Recent research found that the accelerating digitisation of renewables industries is creating skill overlaps with the technology sector. This includes the field of skills relating to artificial intelligence (AI).

This collaborative model is aimed at expediting project delivery by coordinating planning and execution, pooling resources, skills, insights and experiences.

National Grid’s investment in the UK’s electricity network industry is expected to contribute an average of £18.4bn to GDP and support around 220,000 jobs annually between 2024 and 2035.

Innovative tool to alleviate grid bottlenecks

In related news, National Grid has also announced an innovation project in partnership with Smart Wires, aiming to optimise grid efficiency by leveraging advanced power flow controllers (APFC).

The project, funded by the Network Innovation Allowance, aims to develop a tool to coordinate the installation and operation of APFC devices, including Smart Wires’ SmartValve, to alleviate network constraints and enhance clean energy flow.

According to the company, as the electricity landscape shifts towards decarbonisation, managing power flow across the network has now become increasingly complex. Transmission circuits often experience uneven loading, diminishing energy transportation efficiency.

The project aims to coordinate the dispatch of existing APFCs while identifying optimal locations for future installations of grid-enhancing technologies, including dynamic line rating (DLR).

Following a previous innovation project in 2019, National Grid installed SmartValves at three substations in northern England – Harker, Penwortham, and Saltholme – operating across five circuits. Plans for further installations, including one at South Shields, are underway.

Anticipated outcomes include cost savings of around £390m over seven years, attributed to reduced constraint costs and avoidance of expenditure on new infrastructure builds. Moreover, more than 2GW of north-south power flow capacity is projected to be unlocked, enhancing grid infrastructure efficiency and resilience.

National Grid Electricity Transmission’s net zero innovation manager Gary Stockdale said: “This project will give us better insight to fully exploit the potential of grid enhancing technologies on our network, and boost the volume of clean power our circuits can carry around the country.”

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie