National Grid to clamp down on ‘phantom’ renewables projects blocking grid connections queue

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

The body announced on Monday (13) that it is working with engineering consultants at DNV to complete this assessment, which will cover 29GW of projects that are deemed as having a ‘high risk’ of delays.

If delays are likely, the project developers will have six months to apply for a ‘more realistic’ connection date. Failure to adjust the date could result in the project being removed from the queue entirely by the National Grid’s Electricity System Operator (ESO).

For context, there are currently 232 projects with around 45GW of combined capacity in the queue with connection dates before the end of 2025.

The ESO is also making changes to rules for future projects in a bid to reduce grid blocking. Queue management milestones will be added into all connection contracts with dates later than November 2025, in a change that will impact existing and new applications.

All changes have been made possible due to code changes implemented by regulator Ofgem. They will come into force from 27 November.

ESO director Fintan Slye said: “I want to be clear; we will be uncompromising in our approach to driving out and pushing back projects that cannot meet their connection date, paving the way for more viable projects that have a real chance of plugging into the grid, energising the UK economy.”

The body’s director of customer connections John Twomey added that the change should incentivise developers to progress their schemes and discourage “capacity hoarding.

Some renewable projects are facing grid connection delays exceeding 10 years at present. The UK Government’s own figures have shown a 65% increase in the delivery timelines for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) between 2012 and 2021, but delays are plaguing smaller scale projects as well.

National Grid is working with Ofgem, the National Infrastructure Commission and the UK Government in a bid to tackle this issue.

Slye has stated that he expects the Government to announce an additional package of reforms this winter following the mention of readying the UK’s electricity grid for the net-zero transition in the King’s Speech last week.

National Grid is recommending “fundamental” reforms to end the ‘first come, first served’ grid connections model in order to prioritise projects more strategically.

Offshore transmission review

In related news, the Department for Energy Security and Net-Zero is pondering whether to stop requiring systems connecting offshore windfarms to offshore substations to hold a transmission licence.

The Department has stated that the “regulatory clarity” of this change would benefit the offshore wind sector as it expands. The Government is aiming for the UK to host 50GW of offshore wind generation capacity by 2030.

Consultations on the proposed change will run until 2 January 2024. Trade associations and businesses in the offshore wind sector are being encouraged to respond.

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