The government is pumping £960 million into a radical upgrading of Britain’s creaking grid, with chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirming ministers’ acceptance of measures proposed by Whitehall’s energy commissioner Nick Winser.
New trunk powerlines built in seven years rather than today’s benchmark fourteen are the vision offered this morning by the government.
Hunt and energy ministry D-ESNZ confirmed this morning that all 15 of Winser’s recommendations on accelerated access to transmission and distribution networks are to be enacted.
Under the Connections Action Plan, a related initiative presaged in yesterday’s Autumn Statement, typical connection waits standing today at five years could be slashed to as little as six months, ministers promise.
The government said the new money will be focused on network uprades and reinforcements closest to manufacturing hubs serving the key industries in Britain’s Net Zero transition. A notional saving of £1,000 per year for factories close to hubs is suggested by ministers.
Weeding out multiple connection applications for a single new site will radically relieve, D-ESNZ officials believe, pressures to provide more hook-ups. More holistic queue management should yield clarity and economy in readying Britain’s networks for multi-directional transmission of low carbon power.
Presaged in yesterday’s Autumn Statement, the new package is hoped to bring forward £90 billion of investment by 2033.
Energy security secretary Claire Coutinho said: “We have set out the most radical plans to update the grid since the 1950s, speeding up connections and rapidly increasing capacity.
“As we move away from unreliable imports to cheaper, home-grown energy, we’re boosting the grid so that it can meet our expanding electricity needs which are expected to have doubled by 2050.
“We’ll also reward those living closest to new infrastructure with up to £1,000 a year off their energy bills, while communities will get at least £200,000 to spend on local projects that matter the most to them.”
For the National Grid, chief executive John Pettigrew welcomed the government’s “bold plans”.
He went on: “A spatial energy plan and accelerated planning consent will bring clarity, authority and urgency to what needs to be built and where. New community benefit proposals will ensure local people remain at the heart of the energy transition.
“The Connections Action Plan will deliver fundamental reforms needed to enable us to plug clean energy projects in faster, and build on the progress already being made.
“The intent is clear and welcome; now these plans must be implemented at pace to capture the economic opportunity of the energy transition and keep Britain on target to achieve its climate goals.”
Green power practitioners welcomed the chancellor’s announcement.
At Octopus Energy, its head of generation Zoisa North-Bond said “We’re over the moon to see the government taking the handbrake off the gridlock. It will help us bring cheaper, cleaner energy to Britain faster. Renewables have the power to reduce bills for all, but decades-long grid connection queues have massively slowed us down.
The Octopus chief called for reforms to energy pricing. Locational tariffs would mean better use of the existing grid, fewer pylons in the countryside and cheaper bills for every household, she said.
From a smaller developer Island Green Power, its head of projects Dave Elvin welcomed the Chancellor’s move. But persistent planning obstacles continue to hinder green power’s growth, slowing evident benefits including emissions reduction, job creation, and smaller bills, he observed.
Elvin commented: “Cutting grid access delays by 90% is a step in the right direction. However if we are to truly see an increase in grid access for renewable energy projects, we must also see planning reform and industry support to expedite the delivery of utility-scale solar and renewable infrastructure – which will see all Brits save on their energy bills.”
Trade body SolarEnergy UK noted some cash in the Chancellor’s announcement is not new money. The Green Industries Growth Accelerator is part of a broader £4.5bn pot for strategic manufacturing sectors.