Great Britain’s electricity network operators are to invest over £300m to bolster ‘shovel-ready’ green projects across England, Scotland and Wales. ENA's chief executive, David Smith, discusses what that means for communities and Net Zero.
David Smith, Chief Executive of Energy Networks Association
Back in November the Prime Minister announced his ten point plan for a green industrial revolution. We’re incredibly proud to be playing our part in unlocking this and supporting a green recovery from Covid-19 with over £300m to be invested by electricity distribution companies to support the technologies central to a Net Zero future.
The local electricity networks are the backbone of many of the ten points, particularly the greening of transport, heat and buildings. To enable this we are investigating a range of different solutions to release new capacity in the networks – this scheme will enable vast amount of this required capacity by investing in new network infrastructure.
To make sure we invested in the right areas, in conjunction with Ofgem and with the support of BEIS, we ran an incredibly successful call for evidence, in which local authorities, developers and other parties stated the case for extra network capacity to receive investment in their locations. The result of this call for evidence is that network companies will now accelerate investment in local electricity grid infrastructure, across 204 sites over the next 12-24 months.
Projects which will benefit from local network investment include those in the sectors of electric flight, shipping, heating and road transportation. These projects will not only play a critical role in driving a green recovery, but will provide a foundation for the scale up of the technologies needed for a Net Zero future.
What’s more, they’re not in the usual places like leafy, affluent suburbs or busy city centres. The programme includes infrastructure for electric ferries in the Scottish isles, garden villages in the rural north west and fast chargers at motorway service stations across the length and breadth of Great Britain.
We made it very clear in the call for evidence that projects must enable Net Zero and be ‘shovel ready’ as well as provide wider social benefit. The final locations we have agreed with Ofgem are particularly focussed on areas where there are clusters of green projects planned, and there is expected to be a large growth in low carbon technologies in the near future. Crucially, locations which won’t benefit right now from network investment as a part of this scheme are not being forgotten, and we will make sure we factor them into the next price control period (RIIO-ED2), ensuring that the momentum built from this announcement is continued over the next seven years.
Although this funding is allocated solely to electricity distribution companies, there is exploratory work under way for electricity transmission and gas network companies as to what can be delivered through the RIIO-2 regulatory framework to support a green recovery.
While focussed mainly on supporting a green recovery from the pandemic, this announcement is one component of the wider Networks Ten Point Plan, a set of commitments, projects and programmes which our members are delivering to secure a Net Zero future. As the Prime Minister has made clear, the green industrial revolution will impact every corner of the UK. As companies with an unparalleled geographic footprint and foundational role to play in Net Zero, the local electricity networks are crucial to delivering this and, as this announcement shows, are proudly already doing so.
Notes to editor
David Smith is Chief Executive of Energy Networks Association. Read his biography.
About Energy Networks Association
Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the industry body representing the companies which operate the electricity wires, gas pipes and energy system in the UK and Ireland.
ENA helps its members meet the challenge of delivering electricity and gas to communities across the UK and Ireland safely, sustainably and reliably.
Its members include every major electricity and gas network operator in the UK and Ireland, independent operators, National Grid ESO which operates the electricity system in Great Britain and National Grid Gas which operates the gas system in Great Britain. Its affiliate membership also includes companies with an interest in energy, including Heathrow Airport and Network Rail.
What are energy network operators?
Energy network operators manage and maintain the wires, pipes and other infrastructure which delivers electricity and gas to your home, business and community. They are private companies which are regulated by Ofgem and employ around 45,000 people in the UK and Ireland. They are represented by their industry body, Energy Networks Association (that's us).