National Grid unveils £42bn UK investment roadmap on the road to net-zero

National Grid will spend £2bn more in the UK through to the 2025-26 fiscal year than it had planned to this spring. A considerable portion of this budget is earmarked for enhancing grid infrastructure, in a bid to expedite the energy transition in alignment with the UK's 2050 net-zero target.

National Grid unveils £42bn UK investment roadmap on the road to net-zero

National Grid has reported a record-breaking investment of £3.5bn in the first half of 2023. The surge in spending has been attributed to an escalation in investment in 17 major onshore and offshore transmission projects in the UK.

The company anticipates a parallel uptick in transmission investments in the US in the coming years, fuelled by a boost to US renewables from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IRA).

Of the planned £42bn investment for the UK through to fiscal 2025-26, a considerable £19bn will be allocated to improving grid infrastructure—a move deemed essential for achieving net-zero targets.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently underscored the pivotal role of electricity grids in secure energy transitions.

Despite the urgency to deliver the global energy transition, the IEA’s report highlights that global investments in grids have remained stagnant, hovering around $300bn annually since the ratification of the Paris Agreement in 2015.  

The IEA contends that this figure must double to $600bn by 2030 for the world to meet the ambitious targets set by the Paris Agreement.

It estimates that 1,500 gigawatts (GW) of renewable projects worldwide are awaiting connection to the grid—five times the combined solar and wind capacity added globally in 2022.

Battling bottlenecks in grid connection process

National Grid has further announced the success of its ‘Transmission Entry Capacity amnesty,’ clearing 5GW of stalled projects from the UK connections queue, which now exceeds 400GW. However, some projects are still facing prolonged waits exceeding a decade.

Last week, the company published a detailed policy statement consisting of five suggestions for the Government and regulators to accelerate an efficient transition. The suggestions include revamping the planning system for net-zero infrastructure with a streamlined consenting process, expanding Ofgem’s mandate to support new delivery models aligning with net-zero goals, prioritising communities and consumers in the transition, and investing in nationwide supply chain capacity and green skills to strengthen UK’s position in the global race for resources.

Moreover, it recommends transforming the connections process to prioritise strategic projects over a ‘first come, first served’ model.

National Grid recently revealed plans by its Electricity Distribution function to expedite grid connections for up to 10GW of renewable energy projects in England and Wales, in response to concerns raised by developers regarding bottlenecks in the current grid connection process.

National Grid’s chief executive officer, John Pettigrew, is now urging the Government to spearhead a “fundamental reform” of electricity network planning and connections queues. This plea comes in the wake of the Kings Speech, which hinted at potential reforms in this sector.

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