Our action plan for fair and faster connections
We are rising to Britain's Net Zero Challenge by working with our members, government and Ofgem and taking these six steps to improve grid connections for our customers. Read more about what we're doing in our report.
- Strengthen and tighten the application process. Some customers submit speculative applications due to a lack of information and a perception that having a connection offer is in itself valuable. This has driven exponential growth in application volumes (nearly tripling since 2019) – though it is recognised that the majority of these will not go on to become viable projects. To address this, network operators will take steps to make the application process more discerning – providing more information to the market, requesting more data from applicants, and standardising pre-application engagement. These actions will contribute towards ensuring fewer but higher quality projects apply, addressing today’s rapid queue growth, and lowering attrition within the queue.
- Release up to 90GW of capacity by cleaning up the queue and actively managing a “first ready, first-connected” process. To address the challenge that many projects with a connection offer will not ultimately be completed by the customer (up to 60% attrition rate at transmission level), and that customers are not ready to connect in the order that they apply, network operators are cleaning up the queue and transitioning to a firstready, first-connected process. This will release up to 90GW of capacity through customer exits and accelerate remaining applications.
- Accelerate up to 70GW of applications by allowing some applicants to connect faster, before network reinforcements are completed. Historically, customers could not be connected until network reinforcements had been completed, which led to later connection dates in some cases – 31% (167GW) have connection dates more than 10 years away. To accelerate connections of up to 70GW of applications, network operators are providing flexible contracts for generation and storage customers through solutions at distribution and transmission level. These will allow customers to receive earlier connection dates and connect ahead of enabling works, though they may be instructed to reduce their output/consumption when needed.
- Release nearly 3GW of capacity by treating storage differently. Applications for storage projects are increasing faster than any other technology (5,930% from 2019-2023) and are a significant contributor to network capacity constraints. This volume (158GW, 29% of the queue) is driven in part by the historical treatment of storage. Network operators are changing the modelling and assumptions for storage projects at both transmission and distribution level, to better align with actual usage patterns. This will directly release nearly 3GW of capacity, and will also contribute to the impact and benefits delivered through action 5, make network planning more coordinated and realistic.
- Release 46GW of capacity by making network planning processes more coordinated and realistic. Network operators are reforming connections and network planning processes to better coordinate capacity and reinforcement decisions with actual requirements. Improved construction planning assumptions, and the strategic reform of the transmission connections framework will allow for a more efficient process that is not hindered by high application volumes and customer attrition from the queue. We estimate this will release up to 46GW of capacity and accelerate future customer applications.
- Further improve coordination between transmission and distribution operators. Given the increasing interdependence between connections at distribution and transmission levels, network operators are developing a new solution to improve coordination between distribution network operators and transmission operators, including reviewing the threshold at which impacts on the transmission network are assessed, improving transmission – distribution data exchanges, and reforming how distribution customers are charged for triggering transmission network reinforcements. These actions will create a more streamlined and equitable customer experience for distribution customers whose projects impact transmission.
Why 'connecting the queue' is not the answer
Simply connecting the whole queue is not what Britain needs. This is because the queue:
- Includes supply and storage capacity that significantly exceeds even our most ambitious net zero scenarios. There is 252GW more generation and supply capacity in the queue today than is required by 2050 according to the system operator’s Future Energy Scenarios.
- Includes a material volume of speculative or non-viable projects that will never connect. As of September 2023, there were 7,480 customer projects, representing 547GW of capacity, including demand and generation, with a contract to connect to the network – 404GW at transmission level and 143GW at distribution level, but we know from our experience that a significant proportion of these projects will not go ahead.
Network operators are committed to providing customers with the network connections they require, supporting the net zero transition and connecting those customer projects that are ready to be energised at pace.
What's causing this?
Britain has led the industrialised world in the march towards net zero emissions and, with it, greater energy security. Since the UK’s first commercial wind farm began exporting renewable power to the network in 1992, the networks have connected nearly 83GW of low-carbon electricity generation at transmission level and around c. 32GW at distribution level, enabling our rapid progress towards a decarbonised power grid by 2035.
But the recent unprecedented surge in applications for network connection, which have tripled between 2019 and 2023, has created a challenge for customers and network operators. It has resulted in a step change in the volumes and capacity seeking access to both transmission and distribution networks, driven by large scale generation and storage projects, creating the so-called
“queue”. The rate of applications is not slowing down and in fact, continues to increase.
About our Strategic Connections Group
Through our Strategic Connections Group, we are making rapid changes to improve how customers connect to the grid at distribution level. With the oversight of the CEOs of all of Britain’s electricity network companies, we’ve brought together senior representatives of electricity transmission and distribution network companies, the Electricity System Operator (ESO), the Department for Energy Security & Net Zero and Ofgem to ensure cooperation amongst network companies and implement connections reform at Distribution level.