On 11th May an article appeared on the BBC website with the heading “Renewable energy projects worth billions stuck on hold”). It bemoaned the fact that [b]illions of pounds’ worth of green energy projects are on hold because they cannot plug into the UK’s electricity system” and stated that “[s]ome new solar and wind sites are waiting up to 10 to 15 years to be connected because of a lack of capacity in the system…”.

This evening, BBC Radio 4’s PM programme followed up with an interview between Evan Davis and Ben Wilson, Chief Strategy Officer for the National Grid, which contained more than a few interesting snippets.

ED: Now, if you build a new wind or solar farm, helping to de-carbonise the electricity grid in Great Britain, be aware you might have to wait fifteen years for National Grid to connect your facility to the Grid. In fact, there are real worries that it is the Grid which is the constraint on building up renewable energy. Ofgem wants things to change, it says the current National Grid regime is not fit for purpose, some of the delays are unacceptable. National Grid wants thinks to change, but why is there such a problem? Earlier I spoke to Ben Wilson, Chief Strategy Officer for National Grid, and I asked him if I wanted to build a wind farm, what would the process of connecting it to the Grid be?

BW: You have to come to us with an application, and so you have to indicate the size of the project, where the project will be located. We then work out where on the existing network that will need to connect in to, and then that in turn would determine what new infrastructure is required. And then we’ll work out whether any reinforcement of the network deeper into the network is required. Large-scale connections will then have an impact on power flows on the Grid as a whole. If we can connect you without doing that additional reinforcement initially, we will do that, and then we will make a connection offer to you which will have a date in it and will detail those works. If that’s acceptable you then accept that, and then you are in the connection queue, you’re in the connection pipeline for your connection.

ED: How long will I have to wait to get connected to the Grid?

BW: We’ve got about 170 Gw of connections in the pipeline, and more than half of that is within a…is being offered a connection day within twelve months of what has been requested by the customer, so essentially is on time. And that ranges between sort of now through to about ten years from now depending on the scale of the project.

ED: So hang on, there are people waiting ten years to connect their projects. Obviously, they probably won’t build the project if they’re not going to be able to connect it for ten years, but, but, but well theoretically if I order now I might be told “Yes we’ll fit you in in 2033”.

BW: If you want to connect a very large, many hundreds of megawatts or even a gigawatt scale, offshore wind farm, and if you’re coming new in a place which requires new transmission infrastructure to be built to connect that, then it can take that long, absolutely, to offer you the capacity. And that’s a function of what’s already in the connections system ahead of you and it’s also a function of how long it takes to build a new transmission line.

ED: Everybody – the regulator, the investors in renewables and National Grid – everybody agrees we’ve got to speed this up if we’re going to meet any kind of 2035 target for de-carbonising the electricity system. I understand it takes a long time to get planning to build transmission cables and all of that, I understand that. Why there is a queue; why – it sounds like the old GPO, you know, when you ordered a telephone and there would be a big wait for two months while they would deign to install it for you. Why do you not just have the resources, once you’ve got the permission, to get on with the work?

BW: So, it’s, again, we’ve got to come back to the scale point to start with. So peak demand on the system is about 50 Gw today, and I just mentioned that at National Grid alone we have 170 Gw in the queue, and I think for the system as a whole it’s more like 280 Gw. So we are dealing with a transition here where we have multiples of the entire system in the queue ahead of us, so this is a, you know, an absolute step-change and inflection point, so that scale point can’t be made strongly enough. We do need to make changes: so we have a strict first come first served system at the moment under UK regulation where if you come and make a connections application you go back to the back of the queue even though not all the projects in front of you are actually ready to connect at the date they’ve been offered or in fact may ever connect. So we’re advocating for what we call “connect or move”, which means if you’re not ready at the date that you’ve been offered, then you have to get out of the way. So we don’t want people sitting in the queue blocking people behind them who have got ready to go…

ED: Projects which are ready…

BW: Yeah, exactly.

ED: How much difference are all the measures you’re proposing and Ofgem are proposing – the change in the queue – how much difference is this going to make? Or do you see this as just carry all the way through to 2035?

BW: I see the collective changes that we have been proposing, that Ofgem has been proposing today, I see those making a significant difference. So we could see years come off certain applications. So we will start to see that coming through. It is important to note, though, the targets for 2030 and for 2035, they are ambitious targets, there is risk attached to them, and we do collectively all need to do things differently if we’re going to hit those targets.

ED: Just a final one. Shouldn’t you have seen this coming, that we needed to adapt the Grid to the 2035 carbon tar…the target for de-carbonising electricity? And it’s been obvious for quite a while that we’re not…that the Grid is slowing the whole process down?

BW: You know, I’d point to the progress that has already been made. You know, the UK is one of the most de-carbonised advanced economies, I think our national emissions, the last time they were this low was in the 1890s, so I think we have seen this coming and a lot of progress has already been made. But the scale of transition ahead of us – these are, you know, once in several generations worth of changes, the scale of this means that everybody’s got to come together and push through these changes if it’s going to happen. It’s not for one company or for one party alone to deliver.

ED: Ben Wilson there, the Chief Strategy Officer at National Grid.

via Climate Scepticism

May 16, 2023 at 01:53PM

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