Energy Networks Association (ENA) has published a three-step plan to speed up connections to the grid. Action is needed to respond to an unprecedented number of new connection applications as the country powers towards net zero.
Since the UK’s first commercial wind farm began exporting renewable electricity to the grid in 1992, nearly 50GW of renewable electricity projects have been connected to the electricity networks in Great Britain – Looking to the future, in the next few years network operators are set to mobilise over £22bn of investment into the UK’s electricity distribution infrastructure, to help ensure the energy network supports everyone in making their net zero transition.
The existing connections model was designed for a generation of old technology, when far fewer projects with a much higher degree of certainty wanted to connect.
Using the same model today is not fit for purpose, especially when many of the projects seeking connection are not yet ‘connection ready’ or do not have final investment decisions in place.
164GW of new connection requests were received in the year to October – more than twice the entire grid’s worth of capacity looking to connect. The boom in applications, spurred on by the government’s net zero target, means a modern approach to managing connections is needed.
ENA has set out three immediate priority areas to support customers connecting to the distribution network:
- Reforming the distribution network connections queue, promoting mature projects that are closer to delivery above those that may be ‘blocking’ the queue.
- Changing how transmission and distribution networks coordinate connections, improving their interactivity.
- Greater flexibility for storage customers through new contractual options.
These steps complement work under way by National Grid ESO at the transmission level, through their Five Point Plan and ongoing work with the transmission network operators on Connections Reform.
David Boyer, Director of Electricity Systems at Energy Networks Association, which represents the UK’s energy network operators, said:
“The scale and pace of low-carbon power growth is something we should all be proud of. Developers and networks have connected around 50GW of renewable power since the 90s. But it’s clear that what got us here won’t get us there. If we are to meet net zero, we need to deliver even more, and do it even faster.
“The changes we’ve announced today will go a long way to speeding up connections, but more fundamental changes will be needed. Through the regulatory regime, we need to overhaul how connections are managed and enable networks to invest in capacity early. This early investment is crucial if we are to power millions of electric vehicles and heat pumps and connect the massive amounts of renewables and batteries we know are needed in the coming decade.”
Through ENA’s Strategic Connections Group, with the oversight of the CEOs of all of Britain’s electricity network companies, ENA has brought together senior representatives of electricity transmission and distribution network companies, the electricity system operator, the Department for Energy Security & Net Zero and Ofgem to accelerate progress.
Notes to editor
- Download ENA’s action plan
- Connecting more, faster is essential to meeting the government’s target to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. The legally binding target was set in 2019 by the Energy and Clean Growth Minister at the time, Chris Skidmore. In Scotland, the Scottish Government has set a target of 2045.
- National Grid ESO’s Future Energy Scenarios modelling shows that Great Britain needs between 123-147 GW of low carbon transmission generation by 2030 to be on a net zero compliant pathway, and there is already 83 GW connected (56-67%)
- Peak electricity demand in 2022 was 46GW (ESO, 2023); there are now 307GW of projects in the connection queue (257GW transmission and 50GW distribution) far exceeding the Future Energy Scenarios’ most ambitious scenarios.
- At a transmission level, National Grid Electricity Transmission (ET) is investing and innovating to help connect new sources of low carbon and green energy, including:
- Investing £9 billion in its network in the five years from 2021 to 2026 to maintain, adapt and upgrade its infrastructure;
- Innovating its connection design solutions to accommodate one physical connection for multiple customers – including grid parks;
- Ensuring the application, design and feasibility process of connection design work is as efficient as possible;
- Upgrading existing network infrastructure so that it can be used as effectively as possible to allow grid connections to progress – including through initiatives such as LineVision.
About Energy Networks Association
Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the industry body representing 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 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 40,000 people in Great Britain.