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National Grid Accelerates 20GW of Clean Energy Ventures, Propelling Them Past the Connection Queue


Image: T-pylon diamond insulators being installed on Hinkley Connection Project Credit: National Grid


In a groundbreaking move, National Grid has unveiled its ambitious plan to accelerate grid connections for a staggering 20GW of "shovel-ready" clean energy projects across England and Wales. This momentous announcement brings a seismic shift in energy infrastructure development, promising a significant boost to energy storage developers.


Under this innovative approach, National Grid is set to bring forward grid connection dates for these projects by up to five years, equivalent to the capacity of six Hinkley Point C nuclear power stations. Notably, this game-changing initiative targets 19 battery energy storage projects, boasting an impressive 10GW capacity, which will now see their connection dates expedited by an average of four years. This is all thanks to a novel strategy that eliminates the need for non-essential engineering work before connecting storage sites to the transmission network.


But that's not all; an additional 10GW of planned capacity in the Midlands, South West of England, and South Wales distribution networks will also experience grid connection dates being moved up by up to half a decade. This unprecedented acceleration of clean energy projects, primarily involving batteries and their co-location with wind or solar installations, is set to roll out in the coming year.


National Grid's announcement has sent ripples through the energy sector, with more than 200 projects expressing interest in fast-tracking their connection dates. A staggering 16 of these projects are eager to connect within 12 months, while another 180 are eyeing connections within the next two to five years.


This revolutionary approach to storage project connections marks a pivotal moment in the energy landscape, driven by a comprehensive review of the connections pipeline. The goal is to expedite the connection process and address the "zombie projects" that have grid connection dates but have stalled in development.


Traditionally, National Grid would carry out extensive network reinforcement before a project could connect to the grid, often significantly delaying project timelines. However, the new approach is based on the understanding that batteries can adapt to peak generation times, minimizing the impact on the grid system.


Alice Delahunty, president of National Grid Electricity Transmission, said it was committed to speeding up grid connections and creating a "fit for the future" process for plugging projects into the grid.


"Bringing these battery projects forward is one of a range of actions that our electricity transmission business is delivering alongside the system operator and wider industry to unlock clean energy capacity in England and Wales," she said.


"We're really encouraged by the recognition these early joint steps by our industry are receiving. They're paving the way for the more fundamental connections reform that we're collectively working with government and the regulator to deliver to keep Britain on track for a secure, affordable and net zero energy system."


This momentous announcement comes from recommendations from Electricity Networks Commissioner Nick Winser and a series of targeted reforms by the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO). These reforms address the backlog of energy storage schemes, totalling 95GW and approximately 200GW of generation projects. Clean energy developers have long highlighted planning restrictions and grid connection delays as critical barriers to achieving the government's goal of a net-zero power system by 2035.


Julian Leslie, the ESO's head of networks and chief engineer, said he was pleased to see tangible delivery against one of the critical points in its five-point plan to speed up connections to the transmission grid for battery and storage projects.


"We're evolving our network and taking the lead on speeding up connections to make our power system fit for the future, to deliver net zero and keep clean power flowing to the growing number of homes and businesses across Great Britain, fuelling our economy," he said.


"The ESO will continue to work with Great Britain's Transmission and Distribution Owners, Ofgem, Government and the wider industry to solve one of the key challenges facing our energy system today."

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