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British Power Networks Extend Earlier Grid Connection Offers for 7.8GW Clean Energy Ventures


Image Credit: National Grid


In a groundbreaking revelation, National Grid has disclosed that grid connection timelines for over 200 clean energy initiatives have been advanced by an average of 6.5 years. This significant leap means that a staggering 7.8 gigawatts of capacity could be integrated into the grid a decade earlier than anticipated. Such a monumental shift promises to inject fresh momentum into Britain's ambitious quest to decarbonize its power infrastructure within the next decade.


The announcement, made this morning, underscores the remarkable progress achieved by electricity networks in England and Wales. A total of 203 projects have seen their grid connection offer dates accelerated by up to 10 years, collectively dwarfing the proposed output of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, currently in construction in Somerset.


On average, energy network operators have extended invitations to clean power project developers, urging them to expedite their grid connection plans by 6.5 years. This proactive stance is a result of the Technical Limits program, a collaborative initiative spearheaded by National Grid Electricity Transmission in conjunction with the Energy Networks Association (ENA), the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), and distribution network operators (DNOs). The program aims to streamline Britain's historically sluggish grid connection process for clean power ventures, which often languish in queues for years, if not over a decade, before going online.


Notably, 393 projects qualify for the scheme, with an additional 190 poised to receive accelerated offers upon progressing through the connection offer process. Moreover, Scottish Transmission and Distribution network owners are gearing up to implement the program within their license areas, signaling a broader commitment to expediting clean energy integration.


Last month, the inauguration of the Horsey Levels solar farm near Bridgwater marked a milestone as the first project to be energized under this scheme. Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero, Justin Tomlinson, hailed today's announcement as a boon for renewable energy adoption, emphasizing that early grid connections for clean power ventures would power thousands more homes and businesses with locally sourced renewable energy.


"We are delivering the biggest reforms to the network since the 1950s – allowing us to hook more renewables up to the grid so households and businesses can benefit from cleaner, cheaper electricity," he said.


Clean energy developers have persistently highlighted planning constraints, grid connection bottlenecks, and the prevalence of "zombie projects" as primary impediments to achieving the government's ambitious goal of operating a net-zero power system by 2035. Labour's target to decarbonize the power grid by 2030 further underscores the urgency to expedite this process.


In response to these challenges, National Grid, Ofgem, and policymakers have embarked on many initiatives and interventions over the past year to streamline the process and unclog the grid connection backlog.


Today's announcement follows National Grid's November disclosure of plans to advance grid connection dates for up to 20 gigawatts of "shovel-ready" clean energy projects in England and Wales by as much as five years.


National Grid's engineers collaborated with distribution network operators (DNOs) to assess power flows across transmission and distribution network boundaries to facilitate these accelerated offers. By establishing new power flow limits, DNOs can extend accelerated connection dates to select projects before finalizing transmission network reinforcements. This approach hinges on DNOs' ability to curtail exports under specific operating conditions, thereby expediting connections.


The 203 accelerated offers unveiled today entail an average annual export curtailment of 22 percent. These arrangements are anticipated to be transitional, gradually giving way to permanent solutions as network capacity expands over the long term.


Alice Delahunty, President of National Grid Electricity Transmission, described connecting projects to the transmission network and unlocking capacity at lower-voltage distribution networks as a "massive priority." "This team effort has delivered an innovative solution to connect schemes more quickly," she said. We're pleased to see the first project connect earlier than expected and look forward to many more.


"It forms part of a wider range of measures to help connect projects faster, including upgrading the grid – the biggest upgrade in a generation – and working collaboratively with industry, government, and the regulator on reforms to the connections process."


These developments culminate in meticulous analysis conducted by several distribution network operators (DNOs) to assess the potential scope for expediting network connections. For instance, Northern Powergrid disclosed its anticipation of accelerating up to 4.4 gigawatts of projects in December. UK Power Networks outlined how the Technical Limits program facilitates unlocking an additional 4 gigawatts of capacity within its license area.


Since the commencement of the new year, Electricity North West has announced its successful acceleration of access to an extra 1.4 gigawatts of network capacity through the scheme. Meanwhile, SSEN Distribution is poised to unleash over 7 gigawatts of fresh electricity capacity across its two distribution network license areas in the forthcoming years.


These revelations follow recommendations made by Electricity Networks Commissioner Nick Winser last year. Winser advocated for targeted reforms from the National Grid Electricity System Operator aimed at addressing an estimated backlog encompassing a staggering 95 gigawatts of energy storage schemes and approximately 200 gigawatts of generation projects.

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