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National Grid ESO promises to speed up grid connections

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National Grid ESO is reforming the process in which to request a grid connection, hoping that it will clear the bottleneck. 

Recently it was revealed that many projects requesting a grid connection were being told that they had to wait until late 2030 before they would receive said connection, with industry experts concerned that such a delay would risk the UK achieving its net zero goal. 

Julian Leslie, National Grid ESO Head of Networks and Chief Engineer, has recognised that concern, and recently shared the operator’s plans to address the bottleneck in an op-ed for The Times. The solution? Well, it involves a new five-point plan. 

National Grid ESO’s five-point plan to speeding up grid connections

  1. National Grid ESO will be operating a transmission entry capacity amnesty until April 2023. This will allow developers to terminate their connection contracts without incurring liabilities. This should free up capacity in the queue, given as little as 30% of projects that apply for a grid application actually get built.
  2. An update to ESO’s modelling assumptions should more accurately reflect current connection rates and reduce the assumption that most projects in the queue will connect. 
  3. Energy storage will no longer be treated in the same way as other connection projects, allowing them to connect to the grid faster and free up capacity for other projects. 
  4. There will be new contractual terms for connection contracts to manage the queue more efficiently. It will allow projects that are going ahead to connect sooner, while those that are stalled will gain the ability to leave the queue. 
  5. Finally, energy storage projects will soon be given the option to connect to the network sooner, although they may be required to turn off more frequently when the system is under stress without initially receiving any payment for downtime.

This five-point plan is the biggest reform to the connection rules in 20 years, which is when the process was first designed. At the time grid connection timelines were not a major issue, as National Grid ESO only had to deal with a few applications by a small number of large fossil fuel generators. 

With the UK needing between 123-147 GW of low carbon transmission generation by 2030 to be on a net zero compliant pathway, it’s clear that more projects will be needed and fast. That’s why the process update could not come at a better time for the UK’s energy grid.

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